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Missing Children's Day focuses on preventing future loss

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The mothers, fathers and extended family members from 18 families who lost a child participated in the annual Missing Children's Day ceremony at the State Capitol Monday. The event, inspired by Jimmy Ryce, who went missing 16 years ago, is also about preventing future losses.

Since the death of Ryce, the family has placed hundreds of bloodhounds with police agencies. Two more were donated Monday. Claudine Ryce, who passed away last year, was a believer that her son would have been saved had police had a tracking dog.

Teresa Neves couldn't hold back the tears as she placed a rose next to granddaughter's picture. Haleigh Cummings disappeared five years ago while a babysitter slept.

"We want everyone to know that we're still waiting for Haleigh to come home," Neves said.

It was also a day to celebrate successes -- a bloodhound that saved a child and a bus driver who stopped when she spotted a 3-year-old all alone.

"My heart go out to little kids like that," said Daisy Robinson, an Escambia school bus driver.

"So, someone might not have seen him, or someone might have kept going?" asked News4Jax.

"You know, there was one truck in front of me that just kept going," Robinson said.

Police were honored for tracking down sex traffickers and finding a runaway teen with a "pervert."

Fifth grader Amber Nguyen won a poster contest that nearly brought tears to the Law Enforcement agent as she read her application.

"I want the missing children to never lose hope, and understand that people still care about them and want them home," said Jennifer Cook Pritt, with Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

And a St. Petersburg fifth-grader won a statewide essay contest.

"You should not put personal information on websites or social media," said Mia Guarnaccia, with Parkway Christian School

Jimmy Ryce's father, Don Ryce, still attends the event inspired by his son 16 years later.

"I'm happy that they've toughened up the Jimmy Ryce Act and that we keep these people away from their victims and potential victims," Ryce said.

If there is a tragedy at each of the 16 Missing Children's Days that have occurred, it is that every year there is a new parent.

For families, they said it is a chance to connect with the only other people who truly know their loss.