Helping make children safe from molestation and exploitation has been the mission for more than 20 years of the Kindervision Foundation, a nonprofit organization that teaches children how to identify and avoid potentially dangerous people and situations.
Co-founder Dog Sebastian told the Rotary Club of Jacksonville Monday that he was inspired to begin the campaign while he lived in San Diego and learned of a young girl who was abducted and murdered.
Sebastian helped organize a citizens' committee to raise a reward fund and to keep the victim from being forgotten, he said.
"We wanted to keep the case alive in the media and we worked with law enforcement for 13 months until her body was found. That led us to begin Kindervision," Sebastian said.
The "Greatest Save" program has three levels, each aimed at a specific age group from age 6 to teens. Part of the process involves testing the child's knowledge of how to handle potentially dangerous situations, like helping an adult find a lost puppy or getting into a car with someone other than their parent.
Sebastian said the attitude that "it can't happen to my family" is one of the most common misconceptions about the abuse of children.
"Most sexual exploitation of children and teens is at the hands of someone they know," he said.
With support from Major League Baseball and its active and retired players, the foundation has conducted more than 1,400 educational events for children and parents in 48 states.
Sebastian said the organization is working with the Florida Attorney General's Office to institute its peer-to-peer education program in public high schools throughout the state.
One of the challenges facing the organization is raising funds, since child molestation and exploitation is a commonly unreported crime and one that victims and their parents may not openly discuss.
"Multiple sclerosis affects one person in 1,200 but it raises $350 million a year. Autism affects one in 88 people, but it raises $90 million annually. Breast cancer affects one in 7 women, and it raises $900 million a year.
"One child in five is exploited, but less than $20 million a year comes from the private sector," said Sebastian.
"This work is about bringing people together and raising awareness. No one wants this to happen to anybody," he said. "We have to raise our kids on 'yellow alert' and make them constantly aware of where they are and who they are with."