John and Reve Walsh were a couple living a seemingly charmed life in Hollywood Florida. John was a successful businessman, and the couple had a son named Adam who was six years old. On July 27,1981, their lives were shattered when Adam was kidnapped from a local mall and was found murdered two weeks later after an extensive search headed up by the Walshes. Grief-stricken and frustrated, the couple became champions for the causse of missing and murdered children.
The Adam Walsh Outreach Center for Missing Children was the first of their endeavors which was to provide resources for families with missing children. In the following days, they would both testify before Congress, lobbying for The Missing Children’s Assistance Act which was passed the following year. This law mandated the implementation of a national database that would store vital information to aid parents and authorities in missing children’s cases. A television movie entitled, “Adam” aired on NBC and the network showed pictures of missing children and provided a hotline for viewers to call with information. As a result, 30 children of the 50 shown were found and reunited with their families.
On June 13, 1985, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children opened in Washington D.C. Its mission is not only to help find missing children but also to prevent further crimes against children through education. The Center is also responsible for putting pictures of missing kids on milk cartons to enlist the public’s help in locating them. John continued to travel the country speaking before legislatures until in 1991, he became the host of America’s Most Wanted and later, The Hunt. Both of these programs were dedicated to tracking down criminals and bringing them to justice and reuniting children with their families. He also wrote three books. Tears of Rage is the story of moving through grief to a newfound purpose, public Enemies: The Host of America’s Most Wanted Targets the Nation’s Most Notorious Criminals and No Mercy which chronicles some of his most important cases. His son’s murderer was finally identified as serial killer Ottis Toole. He confessed to the crime while in prison serving a sentence for another crime. He died in 1996 from liver complications.
John and Reve Walsh turned their personal tragedy into a campaign to help others find their missing children, providing resources and emotional support. They also arm parents with vital information such as teaching children and parents how to spot online predators which is another growing concern in our society. Using every source of help at their disposal, they have worked tirelessly to find the lost and bring criminals to justice. In the 36 years of the center’s operation, millions of photos of lost children have been circulated, more than 500 million calls received and assisted law enforcement in recovering 348,000 missing children. If you have or know anyone who has a missing, exploited, or murdered child, the center can be reached via web at www.missingkids.org or by phone at 1-800-THE-LOST.