And, unfortunately, it has become a reality for many families faced with a missing child or adolescent. They wake up each morning intent on searching for the child they hold dear, hoping and praying that this is the day their loved one will return home safely.
Statistics on missing and exploited children are staggering.
"Over 2 million children a year are reported missing or exploited," said Casey Hood of Troy, a Mason who currently holds the title of West Tennessee Regional Director of the Child Identification Program. "In the 1990s, there was slightly over a 60 percent chance that those children would be recovered. At the end of 2010, (with the inception of the) Amber Alert and the Child Identification Program, there was a 92 percent chance you would recover your child. My hope is that every child in the state of Tennessee whose parents want a (child identification) kit will have one."
Although the Amber Alert system is now available in all 50 states, Hood said CHIP programs -- which provide families a way to document and organize fingerprints, DNA samples and the most up-to-date descriptions of their children -- were too expensive to be available to all families interested in them.
Since 1994, Masonic lodges across the country have answered the charge by initiating CHIP programs in states throughout the Union.
"In 1994, (Masons attending) the Grand Masters Conference were asked to take over (making CHIP programs available nationwide)," said Hood. "Tennessee is the 30th state to take on the initiative."
This Saturday, Hess Lodge No. 92 in Dyersburg will host a free Child Identification Program for local children. The event will take place at the lodge located on Troy Avenue from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., on Saturday, Oct. 6.
Hood said members of the Lodge will have someone to greet residents as they enter the parking lot and several stations set up in the building to allow residents to come and go quickly.
"From the time you park the car until you walk out the door, it is 15 minutes and you're gone," said Hood. "We do not retain any of the child's information. Someone will be here to help you complete the kit, but then the kit and all the information go back home with the family."
Kits include a card with a place for a current photo and places to log in height, weight, hair color, eye color and any distinguishing marks or characteristics. Ink strips are included to record fingerprints in a designated space. Swabs and sterile bags are also available to brush the inside of the child's cheek and collect hair and fingernail samples.
"With these three samples, law enforcement officials can create a specific DNA match," said Hood, who shares other strategies for parents to follow when vacationing or planning outings with their families.
Cards in the kit include a place for the child's dentist to record an updated dental history, as well.
The kits are absolutely free, paid for by the Masonic Lodge internally with no donations requested or expected.
"Hopefully, this will all be a waste of money," said Hood. "We hope it will never have to be used. But if just one child is helped than we will get far and above what little reward we are looking for."
Those with questions concerning the Tennessee CHIP program may call Hood at (731) 446-8112.