WEST PALM BEACH (CBS4) – It was a simple mission. Give police agencies the right tools to find missing children. When Don and Claudine Ryce started the non-profit Jimmy Ryce Foundation in 1996, a year after their son was murdered, they started donating bloodhounds to law enforcement agencies.
It was their belief that Jimmy would have been found sooner and possibly lived, if police had access to a bloodhound.
Since that time the Foundation has donated more than 400 certified bloodhounds and saved hundreds of missing children and adults. But, the Foundation is running out of money to sponsor the bloodhounds.
“My (late) wife used to say it best. Every time we learned of a recovered child, it was like getting a hug from Jimmy,” said Don Ryce.
Ryce said it costs just $1,000 to sponsor a bloodhound. The Foundation has relied on private donations and grants in the past, but the funding has dried up.
“We don’t need a lot of money but we need some to keep this program going,” said Ryce.
In recent weeks the Foundation donated a bloodhound puppy to the Palm Beach County School District.
Officer Curtis Riddick is the handler for ‘Kash.’ Third graders named Kash which stands for ‘Kids Are Safe Here.’
“It’s an extra tool for students,” said Riddick. “If a child wanders off campus this dog will find them.”
The Palm Beach County School District is the only school district in the nation to have a bloodhound. They join police agencies all over South Florida that have received bloodhounds through the Jimmy Ryce Foundation.
The Sweetwater Police Department was given Gunner nearly two years ago. Jenna Mendez is his handler.
“It’s a wonderful benefit to police and the public.” We trace through scent. You can be next to several people and he will only come after you,” says Mendez.
Gunner was used to look for missing South Florida teenager Christian Aguilar in Gainseville last year.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office has just received two bloodhound puppies being searced trained. They are named ‘Don’ and ‘Martha’ for Don Ryce’s late daughter. Don Ryce said it would be heart breaking if they cannot continue to supply bloodhounds.
“There have been a lot of finds. They are alive because of these dogs and that is what we always wanted,” Ryce said.
If you would like to help the foundation you can go to their web page: http://www.jimmyryce.org; or you can call (305) 861-8366.