Around 25 kids and teens spent their Saturday getting crafty at Burnett Elementary School in Morgan Hill to participate in the first Teen Brigade. The brigade, organized by the KlaasKids Foundation, was created to ensure that Sierra LaMar, the Sobrato High School teen who went missing on March 16, isn’t forgotten.
“These kids want to help the family and make sure Sierra’s story is heard,” said Midsi Sanchez, who’s coordinating the brigade with her friend Davina Joy. Young kids want to help—they want to feel involved. They are doing what it takes to keep her face and her name alive.”
The brigade was created to offer youth the opportunity to contribute to Sierra’s recovery, since age restrictions banning anyone under age 18 from participating in searches have apparently left many youngsters feeling powerless to help.
"I've found that kids want to help out, but because they can’t go on searches they don’t know what they can do,” Joy said.
Under Sanchez and Joy’s direction, the youngsters drew big pink hearts on poster boards with messages like "Find Sierra LaMar" and also helped make the signs used in. Joy said involving young people in the search for Sierra is critical in preventing more abductions.
"Prevention is the key,” she said. “This is where it starts as far as education. We can teach young people how to protect themselves better.”
Klaas Kids Founder Marc Klaas, who established the nonprofit to aid searches for missing people, coordinated for the LaMar family. He asked Sanchez and Joy to conceptualize ideas to involve youth, which they did by utilizing Gilroy Patch to ask readers for suggestions.
Klaas said the article " has been a boon of ideas, though more suggestions are always welcome.
“We need more ideas from young people,” Klaas said. “Because [Sierra] hasn’t been found yet, we need to start planning for the long-term and the more ideas we get the better suited we’ll be to handle what comes our way.”
Klaas said new ideas are vital for the momentum of the search, so those looking for Sierra don’t have to “reinvent the wheel” every day. Organizers have been particularly struck by suggestions from the public to hold safety assemblies at schools and to release photos of Sierra that don’t depict her smiling.
“Wherever she is, she isn’t smiling now,” Sanchez said. “We’re working on making new posters with her not smiling right now.”
Sanchez understands better than most the importance of keeping the public's focus on finding the missing, and knows how essential it is to have youngsters involved in the process.
The petite, 19-year-old woman was abducted by a man when she was 8 years old, but escaped after three days. The foundation was involved in her search, and she now volunteers her time, along with Joy, whenever minors like Sierra go missing.
Aside from aiding in the search for Sierra, the ladies counseled Teen Brigade attendees on ways to stay safe, while their parents participated in weekend search parties. The women said measures like taking the school names off of kids’ social media profiles, and walking with a buddy to go to the park, store and even out to the car are key.
Interested individuals under the age of 18 who would like to participate in the Teen Brigade can do so by going to Burnett Elementary School, located at 85 Tilton Ave. in Morgan Hill, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sunday. If weather permits, youth may team up to deliver fliers door-to-door or post them throughout Morgan Hill.
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