Felixstowe woman's special date
A FORMER Felixstowe woman has had a date at the White House – watching the legislation she fought for being signed by the American president.Mum-of-two Kate Kohl has been part of a group campaigning for new laws in the USA to protect children and improve the methods of tracking them down when they have been abducted.
By Richard Cornwell
A FORMER Felixstowe woman has had a date at the White House – watching the legislation she fought for being signed by the American president.
Mum-of-two Kate Kohl has been part of a group campaigning for new laws in the USA to protect children and improve the methods of tracking them down when they have been abducted.
She was invited to the Rose Garden to see George W Bush sign the country's new Protect Act.
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Her proud mum, Carolyn Galloway, of Beach Road East, Old Felixstowe, said her daughter was thrilled that the law she had worked so hard to have had at last been agreed by the government.
"I am so proud of her because it has been a lot of hard work and campaigning and she has been very determined," she said.
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"She is very strong-minded and really will push for things she thinks are important but she is very diplomatic, too.
"She has always had a real heart for children and wants to do anything she can to help and protect them."
Mrs Kohl, 38, a former pupil of Deben High School, worked in Felixstowe as a waitress at Cordys restaurant and a children's nanny before moving to California with her American serviceman husband Jerry, who now works for Boeing.
While in California she started to learn sign language with the aim of working one-to-one with deaf children in schools.
But when the couple and their children – Matt, 18, and Natalie, 13 – moved to San Antonio, Texas, she found there was nowhere to continue her studies. Walking through a shopping mall she saw a notice asking for volunteers for the Heidi Search Centre.
The centre was set up after Heidi Seeman, 11 year old daughter of an air force sergeant, was abducted in 1990 and murdered. Volunteers wanted to prevent a similar tragedy in future.
Mrs Kohl became an admin volunteer and later an employee of the centre, which helps families, communities, and law enforcement agencies throughout the USA find missing children.
Now she is the centre's executive director and has played a major role in the national campaign to improve the Amber Plan (America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) alert system so all states take part.
This involves publicising as widely as possible any kidnap immediately it happens – including interrupting TV and radio shows, and putting details and vehicle numbers on roadside flashing signs.
This led to the Protect Act, which includes moves to expand the Amber Plan and bring in greater punishment for crimes against children, plus new tools to detect, deter and prosecute abductors.
"I wanted to do something to help protect our children from these monsters that prey on our kids
This Act is of vital importance to our children as it enforces stricter laws on sentences for child predators and financial help for agencies to set up Amber Alert Plans in their state," said Mrs Kohl.
"We are very excited about it becoming law as it is a very effective way of recovering abducted children. The centre has a very extensive educational programme where we teach children and adults about ways to avoid being the victim of an abduction."