Morgan Nick’s mother helps to keep local kids safe

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – The summer months are a busy time for families. Between Little League and swimming lessons, the to-do list can be quite lengthy.

An event in Jonesboro this weekend, however, showed why parents should take a moment and talk about safety with their children.

The Jonesboro E-911 Communications Center decided to host the first ever Northeast Arkansas Child Safety Day on Saturday to get that dialog started.

"It's a good event," said Jeff Presley, director of E-911, "not only fun for the children, but also parents can learn how to take care of their children."

Jeremiah Smith and his two younger brothers stood still long enough to have their fingerprints taken at the event. Having this information has made their mother, Sharece, feel more at ease.

"We often worry about them taking off because they don't always respond to commands," Sharece Smith said, "so that's helpful and a little bit of peace of mind so if something ever happened, that wouldn't be something I'd ever have to worry about."

Smith and other parents know the fingerprints would help police if one of their children ever went missing, so Presley and other organizers made it easy to take home free identification kits from the safety event.

"We're hoping events like this will send a precise, clear message to those bad people that would harm our children that we're not going to sit back and take it," Presley said. "We're here to protect our children."

The event's guest of honor spoke to every parent's worst fear.

"There are kids out there who come home," Colleen Nick told the crowd at the Holiday Inn on South Caraway, "and it is our job to make sure that we're doing everything we can to help them get back home."

Nick's daughter Morgan disappeared from a baseball park 17 years ago. She still holds onto hope Morgan will come home, but, until then, she has made it her life's mission to educate parents.

"What we want to do is educate people," Nick said, "give them the tools to fight against this problem – not to go away being afraid but to go away proactive and do something about it.

"I think the most important thing you can do with your children is to tell them every day how much you love them," she added, "because, if you don't, someone else will and to have ongoing conversations with you so that they trust you and can come to you if something makes them feel scared, confused or uncomfortable. You should know about that."

Nick now serves as executive director of The Morgan Nick Foundation, which "(provides) solutions to educate families, law enforcement and youth leadership to aid in the prevention of missing and exploited children," according to the group's Web site.

Child Safety Day also featured remarks from Harold Perrin, mayor of Jonesboro. Carol Robinson, the missing children's program coordinator with the Arkansas Attorney General's Office, also addressed ways to protect children from harm.

Organizers hope to make Child Safety Day an annual event in the area.

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