MIAMI VALLEY, Ohio (WDTN) — While Callahan Walsh and his father John have devoted their lives to saving others and empowering the public through TV shows like America’s Most Wanted and In Pursuit, their own family is no stranger to tragedy.
The Walsh family was rocked to the core on July 27, 1981, when 6-year-old Adam Walsh — Callahan’s brother — was abducted from a Sears department store at the Hollywood Mall in Hollywood, Florida. His severed head was found two weeks later in a canal along Florida’s Turnpike, and Adam’s murder went unsolved for decades.
After losing their young son to this senseless tragedy, the Walsh family shifted their grief into action.
“Well, I grew up in a family that always said we need to make sure that Adam didn’t die in vain, and if his song is to continue, then we must do the singing,” Callahan said.
“I watched my parents do that every day. Channel their emotions and their anger over what happened to Adam to make sure that there could be a support system for families out there looking for their loved ones. There could be a resource center to help find missing children because there was no organization of that type back in 1981 when my brother Adam went missing. Thankfully, now there is.”
In 1984, John and Revé Walsh and other child advocates founded the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
Over the last 37 years, the organization has assisted law enforcement in the recovery of more than 376,000 missing children.
John also went on to create the wildly-popular TV show America’s Most Wanted in 1988.
Now, Callahan joins his father as a co-host on the series In Pursuit, where the two pursue their lifelong mission of tracking down fugitives from justice, finding missing children and empowering the public to help support a more effective and accountable criminal justice system.
He also serves as the Executive Director of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Florida branch, where he makes it his mission to protect children from the same fate as his brother Adam.
“Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize oftentimes, it does take tragedy to bring about meaningful change. That meaningful change is the way we look for missing children, the way we fight exploitation…We’ve battled back, and we continue to battle…We’re fighting that fight every single day,” Callahan said.
“Finding missing children and finding bad guys fills that hole in our heart left by the disappearance and murder of my brother Adam. I think every capture that we get, every child that we recover, fills that hole in little by little — and we’re still filling that hole in today.”
In the wake of November, which is Child Safety and Protection Month, Callahan shared the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s 4 rules of safety for children.
“When we talk about child safety, it’s real world safety and online safety, and really, those worlds are blending together more and more these days. So, when it comes to real world safety — abduction prevention, inappropriate touch, things like that — We have 4 rules of safety for kids.”
The rules for kids are:
- Take a friend and use the buddy system.
- Check first, with a parent or guardian before going anywhere.
- Tell people no if someone makes you feel sad scared, confused or uncomfortable. Remember that children have a right to say no.
- If someone does try to grab you or touch you, make sure to tell a trusted adult.
When it comes to online safety, Callahan said the best way to keep children safe is to empower them with the knowledge to make safe and smart decisions.
The tips for parents when it comes to keeping children safe online are:
- Try to understand the technology the best that you can, which means downloading and using the apps and social media platforms that your children are using.
- Set ground rules, especially if there has been bad behavior in the past.
- Have ongoing conversations with your kids about safety. The conversations that you have with your youngest children when they are first starting to use the Internet are vastly different than the conversations you need to be having with your older teens and tweens about their online activity.
More resources for real-world safety and online safety for kids, including informational courses, can be found through the KidSmartz and NetSmartz initiatives offered by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.