true-sf-giants-new-era-cap.jpgSan Francisco Giants slugger Pablo Sandoval has lent his star power to a national program that helps parents collect identifying information about their children in case it is ever needed by law enforcement, the FBI announced today.

Sandoval offered to finance 40,000 kits for San Francisco students through the American Football Coaches Association/FBI National Child ID Program, and appeared at a news conference today to demonstrate how to use them.

“Professional athletes are often called heroes, but Pablo is a real hero today,” because he’s helping keep San Francisco’s children safe, FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephanie Douglas said.

The American Football Coaches Association started the ID program in 1998 in response to the abduction and murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, the Texas girl for whom the Amber Alert system was named, program director Kenny Hansmire said.

Parents are encouraged to record information about their children using a fingerprint kit, physical description card with space for a photograph, and cheek swab.

If a child then goes missing, the parents can immediately turn over 80 percent of the information law enforcement officials will need upon activating a search, Hansmire said.

The FBI joined the program in 2001, and to date 30 million identification kits have been distributed, Hansmire said.

He said it is not clear how many have been turned over to law enforcement over the years, but that the kits are an important tool for helping police expedite searches.

The football coaches association decided to start the identification program because they have a built-in captive audience of children, parents and grandparents, Hansmire said.
Sandoval’s participation taps further into that asset, he said.

“When you have somebody that’s a world champion promoting the program, it brings awareness,” he said. “We want to make sure parents know it’s available.”

Sandoval’s agent approached the identification program about a year ago and asked how the star, who has been embraced by fans young and old as the “Kung Fu Panda,” could help, Hansmire said.

Sandoval agreed to donate 40,000 kits, which are free for parents but cost about $1.95 each to produce, and said he hopes to bring awareness to the issue of missing children.
“I have two daughters, so it’s something I worry about,” he said.

He said he also feels like a kid at heart and wants to support the Giants’ young fans.

“When you do well on the field, you can do well off,” he said. “I love this program.”

Sandoval’s contribution is especially significant because other athletes who have partnered with the National ID Program have sponsored maybe 10,000 or 20,000 kits, but never 40,000, Hansmire said.

The FBI today presented Sandoval with a letter thanking him for his contribution as well as an FBI baseball cap.

Sandoval then helped about six children of FBI employees fill out their identification kits and signed baseballs for the young fans.

Janna Brancolini, Bay City News

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