PMAKid: A lot of people know who you are and it is not because of a happy reason. It is because a guy named Richard Allen Davis snuck into your house and kidnapped your daughter Polly. He also murdered her. I have read a lot about what happened, but it is hard to see what she was like as a person. I know that she was the same age that I am right now, but what was she really like before all that awful stuff happened?
Mr. Klaas: Polly was my only child and I thought that she was the best person that I have ever known. She filled my life with happiness, love, and hope. She was a very pretty little girl with a sunny disposition and a natural talent for acting. Polly was smart and had a goofy sense of humor. She was working very hard to overcome her shy nature and was beginning to realize the person that she would become. I was teaching her how to play baseball because she wanted to play with the boys.
PMAKid: I read about how Winona Ryder helped you when Polly first disappeared. Can you tell me how she got involved in trying to help find Polly? I seems like there are kids that disappear all the time, but there are not movie stars helping other parents.
Mr. Klaas: Winona Ryder was from Petaluma, the town that Polly lived in when she was kidnapped. One day, many months before Polly was kidnapped, she and a friend were out walking when they saw a Winona gardening in her parents yard across the street. They stared and gawked, but didn't cross the street to say hello. Instead, they walked on. Many months later, after she had finished filming for a day, Winona was sitting in her trailer watching TV when a story about Polly came on the air. She instantly recognized the shy little girl who didn't cross the street to say hello. That is when she called the Petaluma PD and offered to put up the reward for Polly's safe return. We are forever indebted to our good friend Winona Ryder for her benevolent gesture.
PMAKid: Can you tell me a little bit about what KlaasKids does? I know that you were here in Sacramento recently helping to try to find Linnea Lomax. I know that did not end up well because when she was found, she was dead. Can you tell me about the successes you have had?
PMAKid: You and my dad are friends with the same person, Mrs. Alby. I know that when she was in the California State Assembly that she helped to get a whole bunch of laws passed to protect kids like background checks of people who work with kids and Megan's Law and other stuff. Did the laws that Mrs. Alby helped get passed make a difference here in California? She seems like a really cool lady from what my dad says and that she really cares about kids.
Mr. Klaas: I agree with your dad that Mrs. Alby is a super lady who cares deeply about kids. The law that I worked with her on was Megan's Law. Megan's Law has two parts. The first part is that people who are convicted of sex crimes have to register with law enforcement when they are released from prison. The second part gives the public the right to access that information, usually through the Internet, so that they can use the information to protect their families against a known threat. This is because these types of criminals oftentimes repeat their crimes. Background checks are a very good way to find out if somebody who will have unsupervised access to children as part of their job or their volunteer activities have a criminal background.
PMAKid: My parents and my friends parents teach kids about how to be safe and we also learn about "stranger danger" stuff in school, but what can you tell me that kids and adults should know about making sure kids are protected?
Mr. Klaas: The more that you know, the safer you will be. Parents should be armed with good information and share it with their kids. You know, it has never been about strangers. Most people who hurt kids know the kids, they are not strangers. Here are a few tips for you: kids should always tell their parents where they are going to be; they should always be outside with at least one other person; they should trust their feelings; if something doesn't feel right you should put distance between yourself and whatever is making you feel uneasy; finally, strangers will almost always help a child out of a difficult situation. You can go to women, kids, clerks in a retail situation, emergency personnel in uniform, etc.
PMAKid: I bet it is hard to think about Polly without getting really sad. I know my dad still really misses his mom and she died 20 years ago. How do you deal with the sadness of not having Polly with you today?
Mr. Klaas: We are giving meaning to Polly's death through the work that we do. We want to create a legacy in her name that will be protective of children for generations to come. This way her death was not in vain. Instead she will live on in peoples hearts and minds. I know that this is not the same as having her with us, but it is the best that we can do under the circumstances.