By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario - A Cornwall-based volunteer group dedicated to reuniting families with their missing children is encouraging parents and guardians to keep a watchful eye on their little ones.
© Adam Brazeau
Mike Vernier (left) and Jean Bedard.
The Missing Children and Adults Association is marking National Missing Children's Day on May 25, with an information kiosk at the Cornwall Square.
Members of the association will be at the mall until Thursday, May 29, to raise awareness and collect donations to help find missing children, teens, and adults.
In Canada, there are over 41,000 children reported missing every year. A majority of these cases are quickly resolved, but many children remain unfound.
Mike Vernier, director of the association, has felt the devastating loss of a loved one disappearing and never coming home.
"It's important for me to do this because I wouldn't want any family to go through what I've been through," said Vernier. "It's a long process and it's with you for life."
His wife, Denise, was reported missing to the Cornwall Community Police Service on Sunday, September 19, 2010. At about 10 a.m. on January 3, 2011, the remains of a body were found near Saunders Drive in the west end of Cornwall.
Police confirmed it was Denise.
During her disappearance, Jean Bedard, the volunteer group's founder, and fellow members searched tirelessly. They covered the city and local transportation with posters and kept in direct contact with area law enforcement.
The experience led Vernier to becoming a key member in the association.
"We want to showcase our services and let people know we're here to help," he said.
But Vernier was quick to point out that the association should not be the first place to turn if someone goes missing.
"Contact the police immediately, they will contact us and with the family's permission we can help search," he said. "One of our goals is to help people go through the process."
Bedard couldn't help venting his frustrations about the 200 missing schoolgirls in Nigeria, who were recently kidnapped by a militant group.
"It's terrible what those cowardly kidnappers did," he said. "I pray for their safe return."
For more information about the Missing Children and Adults Association/L'Association des Enfants et Adultes Disparus, visit www.mcaa-aead.ca.