ST. PAUL, Minn. Each Oct. 22, Jerry and Patty Wetterling struggled through the day, marking 27 anniversaries since their son, Jacob, disappeared.
“This is never an easy day for our family,” Jerry said. “It's the blackest time you could ever imagine.”
But Saturday there was light, as more than 2,000 people ran and walked at the first ever Running Home for Jacob 5K. Many were kids like 11-year-old Fiona Sitzmann who, just like Jacob, is always playing sports.
“I like to do soccer and basketball a lot,” Fiona said. “And mostly I like to run a lot.”
And those who don't like it came anyway to support the Wetterlings and their mission to keep kids safe. This is the first year since Jacob's abduction his family has had him home, finally last month laying him to rest.
“You're running and walking for him and for his memory,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar told the crowd, “And in doing so, you will keep that memory alive.”
And that is the Wetterling's greatest hope: That both the boy who was so loved---and the lessons he lived by---won't be forgotten.
“He's home,” Patty said. “And he's at peace. And we'll get there, but it's hard.”
The goal Saturday was to raise awareness about the issues of child safety as well as to give families the opportunity to walk and run in honor of missing and exploited loved ones.
Proceeds from the event will go to the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, which works to end all forms of child abuse, neglect and exploitation.