Oct. 22, 1989, 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped by a masked, armed man in Minnesota. In the 25 years since that Sunday night, Jerry and Patty Wetterling have tirelessly fought to protect children from a similar fate, says the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Patty helped change the landscape of missing children, from sex offender registries to police training. The share of missing children recovered has grown from 62 percent in 1990 to 97 percent today, says the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, where Patty is board chair.
Their fight for others still includes their hope for Jacob. They've done hundreds of interviews to drum up information. They've searched for answers alongside investigators who have vetted some 50,000 leads — tips, connections and even false confessions. The Wetterlings fear they never will know what happened. “It's an unfathomable benchmark,” says Patty. “For the first time, probably, I'm stumped.” From 2009 to 2013, more than 160 children were found who had been missing for 11 to 20 years. Another 42 had been missing for more than 20 years. “We at the National Center never give up hope,” says CEO John Ryan.