By DIANE WETZEL
Since 2004, 35,191 children in Nebraska have been "chipped," thanks to the Nebraska Freemasons. The Masonic Chip Identification Kit is recognized by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as the most comprehensive service of its kind.
Adams Bank & Trust in North Platte is again partnering with the Masons to bring the program to town on Saturday, April 13, at no charge.
"When we did it in the fall of 2011 we had planned on 150 children and we ended up with 241," said Josie Hammer, eastern regional retail coordinator at the bank. "We are planning for 300 this weekend. It's a free service to parents and children."
CHIP is the process of collecting identifying information from a child that could help law enforcement in the event the child is reported missing. All identifying items generated at the event are the sole property of the child's parent or legal guardian. Only the signed permission slip is kept by the Masons.
During the event law enforcement personnel, dentists, members of the Platte Valley Masonic Lodge and other organizations will collect a digital interview, digital fingerprints, a bite impression and a DNA cheek swab from the child.
"The process helps build a bond between children and law enforcement and other agencies," Hammer said. "It provides a structure for the children that these are the people who will help."
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children report that 800,000 children are reported missing each year in the United States. Most are abducted by family members. Those taken by non-family members are often abducted for sexual motives. While the chances that a child will be missing or sexually exploited is remote, parents and guardians should do what is necessary to be prepared for the unthinkable.
"God forbid that anything would happen to a child," Hammer said. "But they would have everything in one place to help law enforcement find them."
Often parents don't have items available to help law enforcement find their missing child. The Masons are committed to helping provide those items at no cost.
According to the Nebraska Freemasons website, www.glne.org, CHIP kits have been generated for children ages 0-21 in Nebraska, and for senior citizens living in Alzheimer's care facilities.
"It really is a cool program," Hammer said.