Relative of missing child launches booming ‘Serenity Alert’ petition

BELLEVUE, NEB. – A woman related to a girl sought in a missing child case authored a wildly successful online petition.

Meet Kayla Sacca: a 25-year-old mother and an assistant manager for a Midwestern store. She is married to Kyle Sacca, and they are parents to a three-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son.

Sacca is also author to a deeply personal petition: “Serenity Alert- A National missing children’s alert for children who aren’t Amber Alerts“.

Just over two weeks ago, nine-year-old Serenity Dennard was reported missing from the Black Hills Children’s Home, a social services center for boys and girls with behavioral issues and other needs, of which she was a resident.

READ MOREDay 9: Search for missing girl temporarily halted

Sacca is Serenity’s cousin. While she has not been in consistent contact with that part of her family, the pain that came with learning of her relative’s disappearance hurt all the same.

“It really hurt everybody who’s related to her and everybody who knows her and cares about her,” Sacca said.

Sacca had just returned home from work and taken a seat in her living room when she received a troubling phone call: Serenity went missing.

“In a way, everything just kind of stopped for me … you hear about this stuff and you see it on T.V. and it’s never been something that I personally have had to worry about.”

Knowing that a family member was in immediate danger, Sacca made a desperate bid to spread the word.

“I felt overwhelmed to do something and I didn’t know what that was. Like, I had no plan.”

Through Change.org, Sacca drafted an internet petition to the South Dakota State Senate and House asking for the creation of a “Serenity Alert” – a missing child alert system akin to an Amber Alert.

Currently, an Amber Alert is used when a child’s missing status can be linked to an abduction by a stranger or parent.

The role of a Serenity Alert would be based on its broader function: it would send a text-based notification alarming recipients throughout the state of origin that a child between the ages of zero and 17 is believed to be missing and in some form of danger – not necessarily kidnapped.

Serenity was not considered for an Amber Alert, as search agencies did not have any definite evidence that she was abducted from the premises of the Children’s Home.

Sacca realized that her original idea of a national service may inundate the public with alerts and she wants to shrink the system to a state-based alarm.

As a parent, she said she would be willing to deal with an increase in alerts if that meant she could more easily help others.

“I think I’d rather get 30 texts a day than get nothing and then realize that I missed out on an opportunity to make that difference.”

Whether the petition would truly force a change was not the only goal on Sacca’s threshold for success; what mattered was getting the word out about her missing cousin.

“If it works, then great: we can help hundreds and hundreds of kids,” Sacca said. “If it doesn’t, at least it got her some kind of exposure and more people have seen her and could potentially help her. So, in a way, it was almost a win-win for me.”

She originally wrote her piece to spread the word among a small group of friend and family. With over 15,000 signatures at the time of this article’s publishing, calling the effort a “win-win” is an understatement.

“I honestly had no idea how many [signatures] I was going to get … I think I speak for all of us when I say that I am overwhelmed and I am so grateful for everybody who’s shared it and signed it.”

However, Sacca does not plan to stop at merely five figures; she hopes to reach 100,000 signatures by the end of her effort.

Despite the petition’s national reach, local law enforcement agencies in both South Dakota and Nebraska have yet to seriously consider her sentiment.

“I’ve reached out to somebody [in Nebraska] about it, and they were like “well, that’s not really happening here,” Sacca said before giving her contrary opinion: “But it is. It’s happening everywhere. Everybody around the country is signing this and looking at it.”

She also expressed her gratitude to the search and rescue teams involved, saying that she “knows that it’s hard, especially in this weather.”

Yet as the search goes on, so does time: “we’re just kind of taking it one day at a time … I think it’s just getting it the exposure that it needs in order for it to grow and to make the difference that I want it to make,” Sacca finished.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News

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