MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This holiday season, WCCO’s Trees of Hope campaign is partnering with organizations that help make lives brighter all year long.

The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center got its start nearly three decades ago with the outpouring of public support in hopes of finding Jacob Wetterling. What grew from years of fear is now giving hope to parents and children worldwide.

For seemingly endless years it was a haunting, troubling mystery. Now, the story of Jacob Wetterling is finally, though sadly, complete. How the community has responded, however, has not.

What Jerry and Patty Wetterling started is also personal to Allison Feigh. She was a sixth-grade classmate of Jacob’s and dedicated her life to protecting other children, now serving as program manager at the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center.

“We want to end child maltreatment in all forms and we want to respond if there’s a child who is missing or exploited,” Feigh said. “We know the most victimized population in the U.S. is 12- to 17-year-olds.”

The center’s two-pronged mission is to aid victim families in their time of need and help prevent abductions and exploitation in the first place.

They bring that message wherever groups gather. A recent presentation at Oak Land Junior High taught parents and children how to spot and avoid predators lurking online or over their phones.

Their work is changing public perception, insisting that that child endangerment is everyone’s problem.

“That feeling that, ‘It’s not my business, I don’t want to intervene,’ I think is lessening over the generations,” victim advocate Kari Christenson said.

Since the recovery of Jacob Wetterling’s body, his number 11 has come to symbolize all that’s right in the world, a beacon of optimism and hope.

“When someone makes a bad choice that hurts other people we feel that ripple effect for generations. And so we want to focus on that ripple effect of ’11 for Jacob’ and positive things coming out of what is horrible,” Feigh said.

The JWRC has just a staff of five, but recently merged forces with the Gunderson Health Systems’ Child Protection Training Center to further broaden its reach.

Click here for more information on how you can help the JWRC.

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