I would like to nominate my dear friend and business partner, Donna Norris, for the Rare Life Award. In her lifetime she has displayed more courage, leadership, survival, heroism, devotion and character than any other individual I have ever met.
Donna Norris has been a child safety campaigner since the abduction and murder of her 9-year-old daughter, Amber Hagerman, in 1996. The case remains unsolved. At the time of Amber’s abduction, WFAA-TV (Channel 8) had been working on a story about families struggling to get off welfare, and Amber and Donna were two of the subjects. On Jan. 23, 1996 Donna announced an effort to toughen laws for sex offenders, leading to the founding of the group People Against Sex Offenders.
Amber’s murder inspired the creation of the AMBER Alert system and the "Amber Hagerman Child Protection Act". Among the sections of the bill was one that would create a national sex offender registry. Donna testified before Congress in order for the nationwide sex offender database and registry to be formed. Donna was present when President Bill Clinton signed into law the bill creating the US national sex offender registry.
In 2003 Donna was present when President George Bush signed a broad child protection bill encouraging states to establish Amber Alert systems to quickly post information about child abductions. The measure, dubbed the "Protect Act of 2003," also enhances penalties for youth abductions and child sex crimes, boosts funding for missing and exploited children programs and cracks down on child pornography, including images created digitally.
On January 12, 2006 Donna spent the day in Washington, D.C., at a ceremony to unveil a postage stamp honoring the Amber Alert.
Donna is the Vice President of Amber Child Safety Systems, LLC., a company that created and designed a comprehensive child identification and recovery system based on the information used to locate missing and abducted children. This system, the Amber Child Safety System, is designed to aid Law Enforcement and others in the search for missing children. This system has been praised by child advocates across the nation.
Her new focus and passion is being a member of the Board of Directors for the Tiponi Foundation, an organization that provides services to victims of abduction and sexual abuse and their family members, the foundation also provides educational information to other organizations along with a variety of other services.
This fall she will begin filming as the host for a new television series that will offer an inside peek into the investigations and also the havoc that unravels as the investigators work around the clock with families and law enforcement on cases ranging from abduction to child prostitution and human trafficking. It will also focus on the positive aspects of dealing with abduction, by educating the public in child safety as they bring these children home and families are reunited.
Life has been a constant battle for Donna for the past 14 years since Amber's murder. Donna continually deals with companies and individuals attempting to profit from her child's death. The constant onslaught of people claiming to be psychics or to have some information related to Amber's murder that they will only share for money or assistance in their own court cases or criminal charges etc.
All of this aside, Donna continues to work an everyday job cleaning houses and always has time for her son, other family members and friends.
Anyone who meets Donna is a changed person. She is one of those people you come across once in a lifetime. She is humble and strong at the same time. She is a perfect example of the impact one person can have on the lives of others just by the desire to help. Donna has shown great courage and determination in pursuit of her goals, and has inspired me and countless other women (and men) by her example. She encourages others to speak out and to take action because, as she often stresses, millions of lives depend on the outcome.
Although she does not consider herself a hero, she’s a hero in my book and a hero in the eyes of millions of Americans. Her tireless efforts have saved countless lives. Because of her efforts, 495 children have been saved directly from Amber Alerts, every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have adopted Amber Alert programs and more than 70 local, regional and tribal plans have been developed.
Donna Norris is the truest example of a rare life and I am grateful and blessed to know such an angel.