HAMMOND | About 800,000 children are reported missing each year in America - an average of 2,185 each day, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Those sobering statistics and a desire to protect children led Valparaiso injury attorney Kenneth J. Allen and his wife, Nina, to sponsor the Northwest Indiana Child I.D. Program, the couple said Wednesday during a check presentation to the United Ways at the Northwest Family Services' child care center, 5927 Columbia Ave.

The Allens' donation of $20,000 will buy Child Identification Kits for all 19,500 kindergarten and first-grade students in Lake, Porter and LaPorte County public schools this fall.

The United Ways in the three counties will distribute the kits to the schools, said Sharon Kish, president of the United Way of Porter County.

Kinderprint kits also will be available at the Porter County Fair, the Immunization Fair with the RailCats baseball team at the end of August and through all United Way offices, she said.

"Protecting our kids is paramount," Kenneth Allen said. "Once a child is lost or abducted, these fingerprint kits will help the police."

Nina Allen said there are many worthwhile charities that she and her husband support, but the safety of children is at the top of their list.

"No amount of money can replace a child," she said. "We love being involved in this program."

Dozens of children at the United Way-supported day care center also received the kits to take home.

"This is a program that is needed. It's very generous of Mr. and Mrs. Allen to do this," said Dave Armistead, director of Northwest Family Services.

The pocket-size kit allows parents to fingerprint their children with an enclosed ink strip and record each child's name, address, physical description, birth date, dental records, emergency contact information and a current photo.

If parents wish, they can include a DNA sample in each child's kit.

The kit also includes child safety tips and what to do if a child is missing. Parents are encouraged to keep the kits up-to-date and in a safe, secure place they can access in an emergency.

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