There were many heroes in the miraculous return of abducted 15-year-old Elizabeth Smart to her family in Salt Lake City in 2003. America's Most Wanted host John Walsh (1945-) was one of them.
"I'm ready to do cartwheels," Walsh said upon her return. "I have been involved in thousands of case... We have very few happy endings."
A plea made by Elizabeth's dad on Walsh's show on March 1 led to the March 12 spotting of the abductors. At that time, they became the 746th and 747th suspects arrested after being featured on the crime show.
"I believe in hunting these cowards down, but I'm not a vigilante," Walsh said in a 2001 Larry King interview.
Walsh's personal story is rooted in unthinkable pain. In 1981, he was a partner in a hotel management company when his 6-year-old son, Adam, was abducted and murdered in Hollywood, Florida.
"I never get over it, I'll never get over it," Walsh said of the tragedy. "You don't bury your children. Your children are your immortality... I will never forget that little boy." Transforming personal tragedy to positive energy, he became a passionate crusader for missing children and victim's rights.
Why do people "have the guts" to consistently call his 1-800-CRIME-TV hotline? "People are afraid of retaliation. They are either afraid of vengeance, they are afraid of the police," Walsh explained. "We have been so successful... because people know they can call and remain anonymous."
Compassionate, articulate, and charismatic, Walsh's commitment led to the passage of important Missing Children legislation in 1982 and 1984. Recipient of the FBI's highest civilian award, he continues to be called upon by the government in times of turmoil, helping with the 9/11 and Oklahoma City bombings aftermath. In 2008, America's Most Wanted observed its 20th year on the air and arrested its 1,000th fugitive.
Calling his job "the most satisfying thing in the world," Walsh credited the "happy endings" to the courage of ordinary people who "make the call." He explained, "The public can make such an incredible difference. If they keep their eyes open, they can make an incredible difference."
Be bold and make a difference!