Sunday, March 22, 2009


Some of you may already know that our granddaughter has been missing since July 2007. After much thought and consideration, I have decided to share with you the following personal narrative about this experience we have been thrust into by circumstances out of our control.

A Missing Child’s Family Speaks Out

When a child runs away or is taken away, the impact spreads beyond the immediate family. People outside the family think of the mother and father first. These strangers have a word of sympathy for the parents and for a brief fleeting moment thoughts such as, “I wonder how I would feel.” They may even go home and hug their child or children for no apparent reason. The forgotten ones are the missing child’s siblings, grandparents, aunt, uncles and even cousins. The child’s disappearance has a wide-reaching effect, not only on the family, but extending to the community as well.

I am the step-grandmother of a missing child. I am going to share with you our family’s story and just some of the impact her disappearance has had on our family. I can only share bits and pieces because it would be impossible to share everything, not only would it take a lot more space, but as yet, the impact isn’t completely known. As a typical response to grief, not everyone in the family has shared or shown the effects of this life event with others.

My granddaughter is considered an “Endangered Missing Child” and her name is Ashley Nicole Summers. I’d like to know how old she is here… She disappeared July 9, 2007 from the near west side of Cleveland, Ohio. Ashley actually ran away from her Great Uncle’s house on Holmden Avenue. She was staying there after a huge fight with her mother. None of us know why she packed all her belongings and left that day. My story will briefly touch on events from that day to the present, almost two years later.

Ashley’s mom, Jen, although still angry with Ashley, spent her whole summer in 2007 driving the streets of Cleveland looking for her daughter. Sometimes she followed Ashley’s boyfriend to see if she was with him. Jen and other family members hung posters up and down the streets of the neighborhood they lived in near West 98th and Madison. The posters were ripped down as fast as they went up. One of the posters made it into a local drug store, which led to our first lead. Someone reported to the police that Ashley was staying in the same building where they lived and they didn’t realize she was a run away. When the police arrived, Ashley was gone.

In one of my searches, I talked to some people on Lawn Avenue near West 65th Street. They knew where she was staying but were afraid to speak up. Although they didn’t say they knew where she was, I could tell by their facial expressions and hushed whispers. I gave them a flyer with our phone number on it and asked them to have Ashley call her PaPa, my husband, as he was very worried about her. We never heard from her. I got a lecture from my husband that day.

“You shouldn’t go back to that area, you could have been shot.” He told me that area is known for drugs and prostitution and he didn’t want to lose me like he lost Ashley.

Jen’s reaction appears to be indifference, but indifference is a form of denial, which is a normal reaction to grief: the grief and sadness that any mother would feel in her position. Ashley’s extended family, consisting of her aunts, uncle, and grandparents, have reacted with anger, guilt and sadness. A lot of questions and conversations take place among the extended family.

Conversations such as: “Why didn’t she call me?”

“I would have helped her.”

“Where do you think she is?”

On and on the questions go.

Personally, my husband John, Ashley’s grandpa, or papa, as he is affectionately called, is full of grief. I am careful as to how much I discuss my search for her when I talk with him. I have begun searching online for her, trying to get as many people as possible, all over the country, to see her picture. Unfortunately, Ashley didn’t receive any media coverage in the beginning because she was a runaway. In my efforts, www.lakewoodbuzz.com placed her picture on their homepage and kept related discussions post at the top. I posted on the Lakewood Observer’s Observation Deck, a discussion page, but wasn’t able to keep it going. In November 2008 Ashley’s case was converted from a status of Endangered Runaway to Endangered Missing at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the FBI got involved in the case.

Every once in a while, I’ll search the Internet with Ashley’s name to see if any new items pop up on a search engine. On February 13th, 2009 I was doing just that and found a blogspot at http://jamesrenner.wordpress.com/ with Ashley’s picture. The blog belongs to James Renner, a staff writer for the alternative weekly newspaper Cleveland Scene. He is also the author of The Serial Killer’s Apprentice, a book about 13 of Northeast Ohio’s most intriguing unsolved crimes and Amy: My Search for Her Killer. The latter book follows his investigation into the unsolved murder of Amy Mihaljevic, a high profile missing child, eventually found dead, in 1989. I met with Mr. Renner and helped him with some questions he had about Ashley.

Shortly thereafter, out of the blue, WJW Fox 8 interviewed Jen and her mom as well as the FBI It aired March 9, 2009. Not to be outdone by the competition, Channel 19 WOIO showed up at her doorstep and did another interview with Jen and the FBI the next day. In both interviews the FBI spokesman stated teenage prostitution was one of the theories they were looking into. Both newscasts mentioned two other girls that disappeared from the same west-side neighborhood Ashley lived in: Amanda Berry, missing since April 21, 2003; and Georgina DeJesus, missing since April 2, 2004. Jen doesn’t believe Ashley had been kidnapped and forced into teenage prostitution. She’s convinced someone harmed her or is hiding her out-of-state.

Since then, I’ve posted updates on www.lakewoodbuzz.com and on the Lakewood Observer’s discussion pages. The Observer’s forum post has gained momentum: David Lay, one of the community members, submitted an article to the Lakewood Observer about Ashley. He also broadcast the link on Twitter and the article has had over 10,000 views. This recent activity gives us hope for now.

I wonder how long we will keep pushing to have her story told. How many years go by before we give up and move on? Ashley has a new baby sister and another sibling on the way. Will she ever get to see them? Will they ever get to know her or even understand she once was, and still is, a part of our family? These are questions I ask myself as I continue to pray, hope and believe that one day, good or bad, we’ll know what happened to her.

If you happen to read this Ashley: we love you! Please come home!

by Linda Summers © March 2009

Additional Information
National Runaway Switchboard 1-800-RUNAWAY
Operated 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Started 1971. More than 100,000 phone calls annually.

Statistics:
•1.6 to 2.8 million runaway and homeless youth live on the streets of America. (OJJDP, 2002, Research Triangle Institute, 1995)
•Youth aged 12-17 are at higher risk for homelessness than adults. (American Journal of Public Health, 1994, 1998)
•47% of runaway/homeless youth indicated that conflict between them and their parent or guardian was a major problem. (Westat, 1997)

Source: http://www.1800runaway.org/news_events/FactSheet.html

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
Since 1983, our nation has observed May 25th as National Missing Children’s Day.
Statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice help shed light on the problem:

Missing children overview
•In one year, an estimated 797,500 children were reported missing.1
•According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 2,000 children are reported missing every day, and thankfully the vast majority of them are recovered quickly.
Nonfamily abductions
•An estimated 58,200 children were taken in one year by someone outside the family2 – typically for a short time, in connection with another crime.
•An estimated 115 children experienced a stereotypical kidnapping, the rarest type of abduction potentially posing great risk of serious harm.3

Family abductions
•An estimated 203,900 children were victims of family abduction, where the child was taken by a noncustodial parent.4
•24 percent of these abductions lasted one week to less than one month.5

If your child is ever missing, call your local police department right away. Police are required by law to immediately take a missing child report and then promptly enter that report into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center. After you have contacted local authorities, contact NCMEC at 1.800.THE.LOST(1.800.843.5678) or online at www.missingkids.com.

Footnotes 1. Source: Andrea J. Sedlak, David Finkelhor, Heather Hammer, and Dana J. Schultz. “National Estimates of Missing Children: An Overview” in National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, October 2002, page 5.
2. Source: David Finkelhor, Heather Hammer, and Andrea J. Sedlak. “Nonfamily Abducted Children: National Estimates and Characteristics” in National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, October 2002, page 6.
3. Ibid.
4. Source: Heather Hammer, David Finkelhor, and Andrea J. Sedlak. “Children Abducted by Family Members: National Estimates and Characteristics” in National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, October 2002, page 4.
5. Ibid., page 7.

Source: http://www.take25.org/page.asp?page=54

FBI's Innocence Lost Initiative Marks its 5th Anniversary
In June 2003, the Federal Bureau of Investigation in conjunction with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the U.S. Department of Justice, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section launched the Innocence Lost National Initiative (ILNI). Their combined efforts were aimed at addressing the growing problem of domestic child sex slavery in the form of child prostitution in the United States.
•Over 400 children have been rescued.
•The CyberTipline has received 5,127 tips of child exploitation through prostitution.
•The number of CyberTipline reports of known missing children involved in prostitution is 944.
•During that same time period, NCMEC has intaked 41,978 endangered runaway cases.
•Case data shows that many of these children can be at great risk of being lured or forced into child prostitution.

Source: http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/CampaignServlet?LanguageCountry=en_US&PageId=3721

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Maple Sugaring, St Pat's Day and a free resource

Wow! All that in one post....here we go....

Sunday the family went to the last of the "History of Maple Sugaring" offered by the Cleveland Metroparks. We went to the Maple Grove Picnic area and took the tour. We learned about the native american's method and "traveled" through time to the present where they showed a small version of the methods used by the large producers up in Vermount and Quebec. Interesting fact - Thomas Jefferson had sugar maples planted down to Monticello so he could try to "tap" (sorry couldn't help the humor) into the Maple Sugar business. But sorry folks - Virginia is too warm of a climate to produce Maple Sugar. So the Northeastern U.S. and north up into Quebec has the best climate for Sugar Maples to produce a good sap to make maple sugar & maple syrup. I also learned that honey bees were brought here by the colonist and are not native to the U.S.

St. Patrick's Day - We were going to try to go to the parade in Downtown Cleveland but when we arrived at the Rapid Station the parking lot was filled beyond capacity. So we decided not to fight the crowds downtown and went to the park instead. Just a little Irish fact: 40% of US President have Irish Ancestors.

A free site to learn more about Thomas Jefferson: http://www.monticello.org/
It has a Monticello Explorer whic provides an in-depth look at Monticello with 3-D models, narrated tours, special animations, and an interactive map. They have a Monticello Classroom where you can Create assignments for your classes, review lesson plans or build your own, and save your favorites on your personal Monticello Classroom webpage.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Free Spelling Curriculum

Free Homeschool Curriculum - Spelling Course

The Basic Cozy Spelling Course free online version. Appropriate for grade 6 to 8 level

This free, thirty lesson spelling course has been made available courtesy of Marie Rackham, author and producer of The Basic Cozy Grammar Course, The Basic Cozy Punctuation Course, The Basic Cozy Essay Course, The Intermediate Cozy Grammar Course Level 1, The Intermediate Cozy Grammar Course Level 2, and The Cozy Classroom CD.

Born and raised in North Vancouver, Marie earned degrees in English and Geography from the University of British Columbia. She worked as a public school teacher for thirty-four years, teaching at all levels from kindergarten to grade twelve.

The curriculum for the course provided here was personally used by Marie in the public school system at the grade 7, 8, and 9 levels.

"Spelling, like grammar and punctuation, is a technique of English. Spelling is an important communication skill. In my opinion, since the advent of the Internet, it is even more important because words on a web page may determine what people think of you and your abilities. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors will make you appear less credible to your audience."

"Good luck and have fun with the course!"

New Free Curriculums

Los Banos Hoeschoolers
American History Curriculum
FREE homeschool history schedule written by the folks at Our Los Banos .com! This is a year long literature based unit study for grades 2-6, or as a homeschool supplement for grades K - middle school.

Otter's Science Curriculum: The Human Body
FREE 33 week literature based tour through the human body, first aid and survival using "living books"!

Little Otter's Science is for preschoolers through 1st grade. This is a gentle, literature approach to science with simple experiments and activities.

Otter's Elementary Science is designed for 2nd to 6th graders though you could easily use this program for a student up to 8th grade. Included are a variety of engaging books, websites, activities and experiments for a fun filled year of study.

Big Otter's Science is for high schoolers. It can be a supplement to Otter's Elementary Science so you can combine your younger kids with bigger kids and still study the same subjects or it can also be used as a stand alone curriculum with plenty of labs, some great optional DVD's and a unit at the end on survival and first aid.

They also currently have 425+ free printables, worksheets and lessons!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Dover Sampler

With the Dover Sampler you can enjoy free samples from a variety of Dover's most popular books. The latest Sampler is packed with free, fun-filled samples from a few of Dover's latest releases. You'll find a coloring page that can help you beat the winter blues, authentic Celtic and Japanese clip art, and a whole lot more.

For more information and to sign up, just use this link -
www.doverpublications.com/tell-a-friend

Monday, March 2, 2009

Nutrition Exploration

As I start my journey towards more healthy choices this year -I'm including the children on this journey too. I want them to understand the good and bad choices we make with food. I'm also hoping to get the whole family involved so we can make good choices together.

My resource to share with you today is Nutrition Explorations - Kid's Nutrition at it's Best (http://www.nutritionexplorations.org/index.asp). You will find links to School Nutrition Professionals, Educators, Parents and Kids. Under the Educators link you will find complete lessons plans, worksheets and activities in two different age groups -2nd and 4th Grade with fun activities geared towards those age groups. I personally will be using the 4th grade level for my 2 children (2nd & 4th graders), since it is easier to combine them. Both levels can easily be adapted to younger (or older) age groups.

I am very excited about this website and look forward to completing it with the children. I hope you enjoy this totally free resource too.