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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

First National Retreat for Families of Missing Persons
To Help Families Cope With Unique Loss

“Keys to Healing” Retreat June 12-14 sponsored by nonprofit Project Jason to teach families methods for dealing with trauma, “living in the not knowing.”

Omaha, Nebraska – (May 2009) – Project Jason, a nonprofit that assists families of missing persons, announced the first national retreat ever to focus specifically on the wellbeing of family members who are searching for their lost loved ones. “Keys to Healing: Mind, Body, and Spirit” will take place June 12-14 at the Swanson Center at Camp Carol Joy Holling near Omaha in Ashland, Nebraska.

“There are resources that teach families of the missing the mechanics of what to do when someone disappears,” said Kelly Jolkowski, president and founder of Project Jason. “Until now, there were no opportunities for family members of both missing children and adults to focus on the emotional and physical trauma that understandably accompanies such an ordeal. We want the families who attend Keys to Healing to walk away with better coping skills, self-understanding and renewed hope.”

The retreat is open to family members of missing persons whose cases are listed with law enforcement agencies in North America. Sessions will be conducted by professional instructors, including a licensed counselor, personal trainer, dietician, missing person advocate, massage therapist, and a minister of faith. Attendees will learn how long term trauma affects the body, how to address that trauma, and how to recognize and handle emotions such as guilt, fear and anger that come into play. There will also be a session designed to answer the question of “How do I go on?”

Featured speakers:

Duane T. Bowers, LPC, is the nation’s foremost traumatic loss therapist and educator. Among his many services to families dealing with grief is providing support to families of abducted, missing, exploited and murdered children through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and to families of missing persons of any age through Project Jason’s Healing Harbor. Bowers is the author of “Guiding Your Family Through Loss and Grief” and “A Child is Missing: Providing Support for Families of Missing Children.”

Richard J. Hauser, S.J., is a professor of theology at Creighton University, a nationally-renowned speaker, and author of numerous books, including “In His Spirit: A Guide to Today’s Spirituality” and “Finding God in Troubled Times,” in which Hauser offers meaningful answers to all those who have found their faith challenged by difficult experiences.

For more information about “Keys to Healing: Mind, Body, and Spirit”
Project Jason Retreat 2009, go to http://www.projectjason.org/retreat.html

**Media attendance at the retreat, and interviews with Project Jason representatives and families, are accommodated upon request.

About Project Jason

Project Jason, founded in 2003, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting the families of missing persons, and creating and increasing public awareness of missing people through a variety of outreach and educational activities. Project Jason brings hope and assistance to families of the missing by providing resources and support. The organization is based in Omaha, Nebraska.

For more information about Project Jason’s objectives, activities and services, go to http://www.projectjason.org

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Periodically throughout the year, Kelly Jolkowski has provided information and requests concerning her missing son Jason. She is also very involved with assisting other families and advocating for DNA samples to be taken from family members in the event someone is missing.

The following is a Christmas message from the organization she founded, Project Jason.

When I was a child, every Christmas season, I looked forward to watching the rebroadcast of classic holiday television shows, such as A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
 
No matter how many times my brothers and I watched these shows, they remained as fresh and exciting in our childhood minds as the new-fallen winter snow. In watching the “Grinch,” we were mesmerized by the nasty creature, as he carried out his plot to stop Christmas from coming to the kind folk of Whoville.
 
We all know the Grinch didn’t succeed, as he did learn the true meaning of Christmas. As children, I know we marveled at the sight of the happy citizens of Whoville celebrating the day without gifts, food, and decorations. While we knew the reason for the day, perhaps our hearts also needed to grow two sizes, (as the Grinch’s did in the show) for us to understand the joy of the day.
 
I remember other sights and sounds from all those years ago. On Christmas Day, the kitchen was a constant flurry of activity. It was a place, where my mother, grandmother, aunts and great aunts appeared to do a synchronized dance of meal preparation with the heels of their pumps clicking on the floor, the skirts of their shirt dresses swirling around as they moved, and all without a curl on their heads out of place.
 
The smells were tantalizing, with a mixture of turkey, ham, stuffing, homemade fudge, pumpkin pies, and other goodies beckoning us inside for an occasional check on the progress. We were shooed away no matter how many times we asked about the meal. We also never failed to ask, even beg, to get to open a present early. We simply could not wait. 
 
Many Christmases went by. I grew up, married, and had two sons. We introduced our children to the magic and joy of Christmas and saw the wonder in their eyes each year on that day. “Mommy, look what Santa brought me!’ little Michael exclaimed. “Can we open a present early, please?” pleaded Jason.
 
Those days have long passed, and the scenes from those Christmases faded, but never gone from our memories. The sights and sounds still exist, only altered with more modern conveniences and dress, and different faces. Our grandmothers, great aunts, several aunts and other loved ones are no longer with us. Some are not with us through death, some through service of our country, and some for reasons which we cannot begin to fathom.
 
No matter what the reason for the absence of our loved ones, Christmas was, is, and will be. The reason and the spirit remain unchanged throughout the ages. I will always have my memories and the warmth of heart given me by these gifts. I am grateful for the time I had with those whom I love, and for the love they gave to me.
 
While it wasn’t instantaneous growth of heart like what the Grinch experienced, my heart grew to gain an understanding of what Christmas is all about: faith, hope, and love. We are truly blessed with this day and this life. So, no matter what life holds for you, where you spend the day, and who you spend it with, let your hearts be open to the joy of the day and season. Memories never cease, hope never fades, and joy is proclaimed throughout the ages:
 
Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!” 
 
May you and yours have the most blessed Christmas.
 
We also extend best wishes to our friends who celebrate the season in other ways and with other traditions.
 
Kelly Jolkowski, the staff and volunteers of Project Jason

Related Posts:

Missing persons connecting the dots

A PSA from Project Jason

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Hello again,
 
Jason’s Birthday Campaign is winding down to the final 3 days. Monday, October 6th, is the 5 year anniversary of the founding of Project Jason, and marks the end of the Birthday Campaign.
 
For those who have contributed, we are moved beyond words at your generosity. For those who could not, we appreciate support you’ve given us in other ways.
 
Please see the previous letters below for additional information. For those who did not yet donate, and wish to, there is a PayPal button at the bottom of our main website at
www.projectjason.org or you may mail in a check or money order to PO Box 3035, Omaha, NE, 68103.
 
I will always remember Jason for his generosity of spirit. I somehow feel that he knows about our work, and is so pleased, as we are, that something done in his name has helped so many and will continue to do so with your support.
 
Thank you!
 
Kelly Jolkowski, Mother of Missing Jason Jolkowski
President and Founder,
Project Jason
http://www.projectjason.org
Please help us with Jason’s Birthday Campaign:
http://www.projectjason.org/forums/index.php?topic=3021.0

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Posted from “When a child goes missing“.

At the same time states are implementing “Silver Alerts” to aid in the search for missing older adults, the Federal  Government appears to be forcing the closure of the National Center for Missing Adults (NCMA).

To Family Members and Friends of the Missing,

Monday, November 5th, 2007, might be remembered by those involved in the missing persons cause as a day in which a huge step backwards was taken.

Unless something major breaks in the way of funding, this will be the day in which the National Center for Missing Adults (NCMA) will close their doors. Thousands of families will be affected, now and in the future.

Why is this happening?

The answer is complex, but in summary:

  • The NCMA stepped up and assisted over 13,000 victims of Hurricane Katrina and was to be reimbursed for those expenditures, which were close to $250,000. At this time, the NCMA has only received $50,000 to cover the work they did at the request of the Dept. of Justice.
  • The 2007 re-authorization of Kristen’s Law, (HR 423) which would provide the NCMA with up to $4 million per year in funding for 10 years, continues to remain in the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security committee, with no action taken to help the center. This re-authorization effort has been in the works unsuccessfully since 2005.
  • As experienced not only by the NCMA, but by other national organizations, including ours, the public does not generally consider missing adults’ assistance nonprofits as a part of their charitable giving plans. Corporations are also hesitant to provide funding, and grant makers don’t seem responsive, either. This lack of support has also contributed to the problem.


What will save the NCMA at this late hour?

If an “angel” company or person comes forward who can help keep the center operating until the Kristen’s Law Re-authorization funds are released.

AND/OR

The DOJ immediately releases the funds owed to the NCMA from their work related to Hurricane Katrina.


What Can I Do?

I spent time talking with Kym Pasqualini, founder of the NCMA, late last night, and based upon the conversation, this is what she asks of you if you feel moved to help with a final effort.

  • Kym feels that, out of all the national media, the person who could best help with exposure and a push for action is Larry King of CNN’s Larry King Live Show. She says that Larry’s show is watched by many members of congress and that he is not afraid to step on toes to get something accomplished. If she could get a spot on his show as soon as possible, she plans to talk candidly about the situation.If you can help with this step, please write to Larry King at larrykinglive@cnn.com and ask him to have Kym on as a guest immediately. Keep in mind that even if a spot on the show is not successful at moving congress or getting the Katrina reimbursement, it could reach the “angel” company or person as mentioned above.
  • Contact Peter D. Keisler, acting Attorney General, and let him know how you feel about missing adults losing their national clearinghouse and resource. Mention the 2007 re-authorization of Kristen’s Law, (HR 423) You can also write to Vice President Dick Cheney at vice_president@whitehouse.gov The White House fax is 202-456-2461. Use AskDOJ@usdoj.gov to send correspondence to the Attorney General’s office.

Time is quickly running out for this year’s session, so please send your letters right away.

No matter what happens, we need to find a way to gain more support from the general public for our missing persons’ assistance organizations. We cannot allow the continued disintegration of all we have worked so hard for in the past few years.

Not only would the loss of the NCMA represent less support for families of the missing, but it also means that another avenue of training for law enforcement is gone. (When fully funded, the NCMA had assisted with providing specialized missing adults investigative training through the excellent Fox Valley Technical College.)

I know this is long, but in order to gain a better understanding, I would like you to also read the following:

http://voice4themissing.blogspot.com/2006/07/71006-matter-of-urgency.html (I am also posting this update on that link.)

There is a letter on the previous site that we used in our original campaign. I have re-written that letter for use in this campaign. You may use this letter to send to our government representatives and the Attorney General’s office. You will find this letter below my signature.

I know I have asked much of you, so if you can only do one thing suggested in this letter, write to Larry King and ask him to have Kym on as a guest right away.

Remember when the NCMA was there for you? Now you can be there for them.

If we do not try, then we will never succeed. If we do try, then we have a chance.

There is always hope.

Kelly Jolkowski, Mother of Missing Jason Jolkowski

President and Founder, Project Jason

www.projectjason.org

(more…)

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Should police be required to collect DNA evidence for people who are missing as well as from unidentified bodies and put them in a national database for possible matches? They already encourage parents to keep DNA from their children as a preventive measure should they go missing.

Several states would like to establish:

  • criteria for police to determine whether an adult is a ‘‘high risk missing person”
  • require police to provide family with contact information for missing-persons organizations
  • collect DNA evidence for anyone missing more than 30 days

The model legislation suggested by the Justice Department has been adopted in some form in Washington, Colorado and the District of Columbia, said Kelly Jolkowski, founder and president of Nebraska-based Project Jason, a group that helps families.

Jolkowski said a key of the proposed legislation is the DNA procedures, which would allow law enforcement with a missing person in one jurisdiction to link the case to an unidentified body in another place.

Currently, she said, many states allow unidentified bodies to be buried or cremated without ever obtaining DNA that could be used to identify them later. The bills would prevent unidentified bodies from being cremated.

“This is about connecting the dots,” Jolkowski said. “There’s an average of about 105,000 open missing-persons cases at any one time, and there’s an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 unidentified remains. Who knows how many other bodies out there have been buried or cremated without identification, with families somewhere without knowledge of what happened.”

Please click here to view a PDF of model legislation.

The following are a couple cases where the families are trying to connect the dots.

The family of a missing 61-year-old Corpus Christi man will be the first to have DNA samples collected in an effort to identify recently discovered human remains, police said….

If the Salas family is not a match, investigators will begin collecting samples from about six other families who reported a missing person.

Daughter holds hope in search for missing mom

It’s been half a century since Elizabeth Fern Rathjen, a patient at the Stockton Mental Hospital, wandered off the grounds and was never heard from again. But her daughter has never stopped searching.Joyce Tafoya, now 62, thought she’d hit pay dirt, literally, when human remains were uncovered in late 2005 at the site of the hospital, which closed in 1996. A burial site with as many as 30 bodies was discovered during the early stages of construction of a California State University satellite campus now located there.

In this ABC News article from May 2005, the Justice Department was supposed to be spending millions of dollars to expand the use of DNA technology. Why would they not support legislation to take DNA from missing persons as outlined above? The NCMEC recommends it for missing children so why not missing adults.

Brooke Wilberger, a 19-year-old college student, was last seen in May 2004 at an apartment complex near Oregon State University.

Wilberger is one of more than 100,000 people the government lists as missing. Police say the people may have disappeared for personal reasons or were the victims of accidents or crimes where little evidence was left behind.

Should her remains be found, would DNA not be valuable in identifying her?

Her body has never been found, but Joel Patrick Courtney, 39, was indicted in August on 19 counts, including aggravated murder, kidnapping, sodomy, rape and sexual abuse in connection with Wilberger’s disappearance.

The FBI believes there may be victims in the following areas:

Albuquerque, N.M.
Anchorage, Alaska
Beaverton, Ore.
Bernalillo, N.M.
Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Cocoa Beach, Fla.
Grants, N.M.
Pensacola, Fla.
Portland, Ore.
Rio Rancho, N.M.

Update 12-08-07   Missing ‘runaway’ found 8 years later  

Three-quarters of unidentified bodies in U.S. morgues and cemeteries come from just four states, and Arizona is one of them. There were 569 collected in Arizona from 1980 to 2004, according to federal statistics

Update 09-22-09: Family, friends express relief Wilberger’s body is finally found

Brooke Wilberger’s memory has faded on the BYU campus, but former roommates of the BYU sophomore who vanished five years ago in Corvallis, Ore., embraced with a sense of release Monday the news that her body had been found.

“It has felt like an eternity to every person involved in this,” said Brittany Bennion, one of Wilberger’s Deseret Towers roommates. “I’m happy that there is closure and I’m happy that they found her body. I know that this is what Brooke’s family was hoping for.”

The search for Wilberger, who disappeared from an apartment building near the Oregon State University campus in May 2004 shortly after finishing her freshman year at BYU, ended Monday when a man pleaded guilty to her murder after leading police to her body near the rugged Oregon coast.

Defendant Joel Courtney’s confession concluded one of the most publicized murder investigations in Oregon history.

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