The IBEW's multiyear effort on behalf of the National Child Identification Program was honored at the start of the Dec. 15 Chicago Bears-Green Bay Packers game at Lambeau Field in recognition of a strengthened partnership with other unions and the National Football League to protect missing children.
|International President Lonnie R. Stephenson and Executive Assistant to the President Sherilyn Wright were honored by the National Child Identification Program as Man of the Year and Executive of the Year prior to the Chicago Bears-Green Bay Packers game on Dec. 15. From left are Rusty McAllister, president of the Nevada AFL-CIO; Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford; Packers legend and NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Kramer, the program’s goodwill ambassador; Stephenson; Wright, and Todd Lair, vice president of the Plasters and Cement Union. McCallister was named state president of the year, Ford attorney general of the year and Lair Executive VP of the Year by the program.
International President Lonnie R. Stephenson and Assistant to the President Sherilyn Wright were joined by other labor leaders and Hall of Fame offensive lineman and Packers legend Jerry Kramer, who serves as a goodwill ambassador to the child ID program.
The NFL is a partner in the effort the IBEW has been involved with since 2017, which has helped millions of families compile identification kits to be given to law enforcement if a child is abducted or goes missing.
"I'm a sports fan, and being recognized in a legendary venue like Lambeau Field is an amazing moment," Stephenson said. "But like nearly every good thing in my life, it came from being an IBEW member. I thought about that many times during that day; that I was representing all our members because of the good work they do in their communities. It was a great feeling to be there representing the 775,000 members and retirees of this great union for such a great cause that so many of us have been a part of."
The IBEW joined forces with the National Child Identification Program in 2017 to help members prepare if faced with the nightmare of a missing child. The two parties recently strengthened that partnership with an initiative that will make the kits available to even more families, both union and nonunion.
Working with both the Democratic and Republican attorney general associations, the IBEW and its utility partners will distribute 4 million child identification kits to kindergarteners and their families throughout the country.
Utility companies the IBEW has collectively-bargained agreements with will sponsor programs that distribute the kits in states where those companies have a presence. Officials from the National Child Identification Program will work with the attorneys general to ensure sponsors in states where the IBEW does not have a utility presence.
The kit has a list of information for parents or guardians to compile and store in a safe place in case a child is reported missing, including the child's medical information, height, weight, fingerprints, a picture and a swab of their DNA. They turn that over to law enforcement in case of emergency, saving precious time during the investigation process.
It's something no parent or guardian wants to use, but it's a tool that could be a life-saving mechanism in a time of crisis.
|Wright and Stephenson, far left, were recognized during the Bears-Packers game at Lambeau Field during a brief ceremony. Packers legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Kramer and team president and CEO Mark Murphy are to Stephenson’s left.
"What I've learned is the IBEW and its members are leaders," said Kenny Hansmire, a former NFL wide receiver and executive director of the identification program since its inception. "They lead in their communities. They lead everywhere they go. When this idea came up, it just made sense for them to be involved because of their relationships with the utilities that want to work with the attorneys general to make this a success."
Stephenson said doing so is a natural extension of IBEW members giving back to their local communities, a core tenet of membership.
"We originally partnered with the National Child Identification Program because we wanted to give our members another tool to take care of their families, even in the most troublesome circumstances," he said. "It was a success and this is a natural next step. We were honored when Kenny and others asked us to deepen our involvement."
The IBEW and its local unions have distributed about 750,000 of the child identification kits to members since 2017. The program was started by the American Football Coaches Association in 1997, about one year after the murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, the daughter of an IBEW member in Arlington, Texas. Police efforts to locate Hagerman, whose body was found four days after she was abducted, were slowed by a lack of fingerprints and DNA information.
That was a catalyst for local and state governments to strengthen efforts to locate missing children. The activation of the child abduction system when a minor is reported missing is called the Amber Alert in Hagerman's honor. Her death also sparked the American Football Coaches Association, which is based in nearby Waco, Texas, to act. It worked with law enforcement to develop the kits.
As of Dec. 31, 2018, 34.8% of the nearly 86,000 people listed as missing in the United States were 18 years old or younger, according to the FBI's National Crime Information Center's Missing Persons File.
Hansmire noted that when an emergency strikes in most parts of the country, IBEW members in the utility branch are called on to quickly restore power to often desperate communities. That makes us a natural partner for the program, which is designed to answer the call during another emergency, the disappearance of a child.
"The IBEW is on the scene when disasters happen," Hansmire said. "Your emergency crews are always available."