Local nonprofit uses baseball stadiums to help find missing kids – ActionNewsJax.com
It started with the hit of a baseball and led to a vision that reached into the stands and crowds of fans.
“I spent all of my time in baseball stadiums every night with thousands of people,” said Dennis Bair, founder and President of the Bairfind Foundation.
Bair was a minor league baseball pitcher for nine years and started his career after he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs.
It was during that time that he realized the potential for the stadiums to help families with missing children.
“The baseball stadium was the perfect place to show their photos because thousands are there every night,” Bair said.
The Bairfind Foundation has put up signs for missing children in 40 minor league baseball stadiums across the country so far with the goal of reaching all 160 minor league stadiums and eventually all arenas and stadiums nationwide.
It’s all meant to help people like Darlene Briggs, who has been looking for her grandson Mark Degner for more than a decade.
“You always have questions in your mind like ‘where is he? What kind of circumstances is he living in?’” Briggs said.
Mark and his friend Bryan Hayes disappeared near Paxon Middle School in 2005.
Mark was 12 and Bryan was 13 at the time.
“We started looking for a little boy or a young boy and now we’re looking for a man,” Briggs said.
The Jacksonville Suns is one of the teams that has partnered with the Bairfind Foundation, and they have a sign for missing kids in the main concourse that includes a profile and picture of Mark.
Since the foundation was created in 2011, Bair said they have featured 278 kids on their signs and 65 of them have been safely brought home.
“I started doing it thinking one day, one of the kids that I feature is going to be found, then all of a sudden the numbers were climbing,” Bair said.
In October, Action News Jax sat down with one of the missing kids on the signs, Gina DeJesus.
DeJesus was one of the three Cleveland kidnapping survivors who endured nearly a decade in captivity before being reunited with her family.
“Every time I’d see my parents on TV, it would give me even more hope to know one day, I was going to come back home to them,” DeJesus said.
Briggs said the Bairfind Foundation’s success stories help keep her hope alive that her grandson will one day be brought home, too.
“We said from the very beginning that we would not stop looking for Mark until he was found, and we won’t,” Briggs said.
The Bairfind Foundation said it is continuing to look for more partnerships with local businesses to continue expanding its efforts.
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