TALLAHASSEE, Fla.-- “Wendy had a history of saying, ‘Nothing bad ever happens to us.’ We believed that too, until 21 years ago, last week," said Dan Campbell. That’s when his 14-year-old daughter Wendy Hudakoc sneaked out to a friend’s party.The Naples teen never returned and is now one of the state’s 345 missing faces.
“Some years it feels like it’s getting a little easier. Then you have a year where it just tugs on your heartstrings," Campbell said.
That pain has turned into advocacy for Campbell. On Missing Children’s Day he was remembering his daughter and pushing a message to others. “Help people realize, this can happen anywhere at anytime.”
It's a concern shared by many, but how to fix it is a difficult question.
At the moment, state lawmakers are focusing on curbing gun violence. None of the more than 2,000 bills proposed for the 2020 session directly tie to missing children.
Casey DeSantis, the state’s First Lady, who’s taken up a mission of helping children, would like to hear some. “If legislators have some good things that we can do to try and bring these kids home— I’m all ears. I think it’s a priority, we have got to make sure we’re doing what we can.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis’s recent budget proposal could indirectly help.He’s asking for millions to enhance Florida’s crime database and to create threat assessment teams stopping violence before it happens.
“We didn’t have the resources that we have today when Wendy went missing. I’m really proud of that," Campbell said.
Florida is moving the right direction. All he’s asking for in 2020 is lawmakers keep open minds to ensure missing kids like his daughter aren’t forgotten.
Missing kids are more than a state issue. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates about 400,000 kids are reported missing each year.