On family trips, Alison Feigh made sure to pack her Jacob Wetterling posters. She hung them in dozens of restaurants and cried when a manager at a Pizza Hut in Texas refused to post one.
Feigh was 11 then. Jacob had been her classmate at North Middle School in St. Cloud. His abduction was truly scary, she said. “The boy who was sitting in class with me has been taken, and no one knows who did it.”
But the Wetterlings and the teachers “did such an amazing job of trying to focus on what we can do instead of what we’re afraid of,” said Feigh, now 36. “Instead of going toward fear, we moved toward hope.”
Feigh was so affected by Jacob’s kidnapping and so moved by the Wetterlings’ work that she made the protection of children her profession. After digging into the child abuse section of her library’s card catalog as a teenager, she designed a major at St. Olaf College in missing children.
She worked at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children before joining the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center in Minneapolis, where she is program manager. Feigh has written two children’s books on personal safety: “On those Runaway Days” and “I Can Play It Safe.”
This month, she spoke at schools, universities and women’s groups. At a safety fair in St. Joseph, she handed out brochures and child ID kits and chatted with classmates who now have children of their own.
“What grade are you in?” she asked, leaning over to chat with an 8-year-old.
When a principal calls requesting a speaker who can frighten the kids, Feigh explains the lesson she learned from Patty: “We want personal safety to be accessible, not scary.”
Feigh’s office is wallpapered with photos of friends and children — godchildren, kids from high school retreats, nieces and nephews.
“When I started doing this work, I intentionally surrounded myself with pictures of guys that I know and love,” she said, “because I deal with so many men who are so violent and do so many horrible things.”
There are photos of Jacob, too, and a bumper sticker: “You are Jacob’s hope.”