Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Head of Local Missing Children Group Calls Cleveland Rescue a 'Miracle'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Head of Local Missing Children Group Calls Cleveland Rescue a 'Miracle'

Article excerpt

It was a moment Dennis Bair couldn't believe happened and one he was always convinced would come to pass.

That someday, Gina DeJesus, the Cleveland girl who went missing at age 14 and whose photo the Squirrel Hill man pushed to have displayed on stadium concourses, game programs and Jumbotron scoreboards, would be found. That she would be alive. That she would be returned to a family who never stopped looking for her.

That happened Monday, when Ms. DeJesus and two other young women were found, alive, in a house in Cleveland, finally freed after about a decade of being held against their will.

"I just, I couldn't believe it," Mr. Bair said. "It's just a miracle."

In recent years, Mr. Bair has made it his mission to create more of these types of miracles, by founding the BairFind Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to find missing children and teens by displaying their photographs where many people will see them: sporting events.

"We take the profiles of missing kids, and we put them where the people are, and that's in sports stadiums and arenas," he said.

The concept came to Mr. Bair, now 38, about 16 years ago. He happened to watch a documentary about parents searching for their missing children, trying to convince people to save fliers with pictures of their lost loved ones, and then he found in his childhood bedroom an old autographed photograph of former Steelers running back Rocky Bleier.

He'd saved the poster for years, and it occurred to him that if a picture of a missing child had been included on the poster, he might still remember the child's face, and that might make a difference in finding him or her. He put his idea into practice in the minor leagues, adding photographs of missing children onto team poster signs.

The technique, he discovered, worked. Children were being found. His organization obtained nonprofit status in 2011, with Mr. …

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