Terri Lynn has helped keep the legacy of Jimmy Ryce alive for more than 26 years. After Ryce was tragically abducted and murdered in 1995, Lynn became an honorary member of the family by helping his parents handle media and interview requests, and now bloodhound donations.
Ryce’s parents believed that he would have had a better chance of being found if their local law enforcement had a bloodhound. They created the Jimmy Ryce Center to raise money to provide AKC bloodhounds to law enforcement, free of charge, in order to find abducted and lost children. To date, the Jimmy Ryce Center has donated over 700 bloodhounds.
Describe your volunteer role with the Jimmy Ryce Center.
My whole life profession was being a publicist, which entailed representing unique businesses, people, authors, lawyers and doctors. My job was to arrange interviews, television appearances and articles in newspapers and magazines. It’s a passion of mine, and I’ve been doing it most of my life. But on September 11, 1995, a little boy by the name of Jimmy Ryce was abducted and murdered after getting off of the school bus on his way home.
His parents were constantly getting phone calls from the media while they were distraught, as anybody could be. They started asking around if anyone knew how to handle the media, someone who could help them handle calls and requests for interviews. Next thing you know, my name came up. I was very flattered. There’s no handbook for what to do when there’s a missing child. It was uncharted territory for me. I’ve been told that I was the first person in history as a publicist to ever help a family with a missing child. From the get-go, my mission and intention was to work for their family as a volunteer to help. The first call I had with Jimmy’s dad on the phone was a life changing moment for me. We had to keep Jimmy’s name in the news. Two days after that phone call it would be Jimmy’s birthday, and we let the media know that. I’ve been a part of the Jimmy Ryce Center ever since 1995.
Describe your relationship with the Ryce Family and how the center was created.
I’ve really been a pro bono volunteer from that first day. My relationship with the Ryce family grew from a working relationship to a dear friendship. We prayed that he was still alive somehow, someway. Sadly, that was not the case. I’ve been told by people in law enforcement from the FBI that, in cases such as Jimmy’s, the parents literally curled up into a ball [in grief] and were really never heard from again. Jimmy’s parents were exceptionally smart people who were both attorneys. They wanted to memorialize their son, so that his life would not be in vain.
One thing that stood out in their mind is that, when Jimmy was abducted, law enforcement agencies didn’t have a bloodhound. And that was the official start to the Jimmy Ryce Center. I’ve been with the family as the volunteer spokesperson and media coordinator setting up conferences across the US whenever they were going to present a bloodhound to law enforcement.
What value do bloodhounds bring to law enforcement?
A bloodhound has 60 times the scent power of a German shepherd. It’s the only dog that can follow a human trail for more than a few hours. They’re the single best bet for bringing a child abducted by a predator home alive. We believe that Jimmy would be alive today if a bloodhound would have been immediately brought in to help.
To date, the Jimmy Ryce Center has donated more than 700 bloodhounds to law enforcement agencies around the world.
What inspires you to volunteer?
Jimmy’s parents have both passed away, so we try to continue building the legacy. It’s big shoes to fill. But people are still very moved by the story to this day. Awareness is key. I’m not a professional fundraiser, but we do whatever we can to help get the word out. Whenever there’s something on the news, such as a milestone regarding the anniversary of Jimmy’s passing, donations come in. We keep the legacy going.
What have you learned through your experience as a volunteer?
Managing this organization is one of the most rewarding parts of my life. Jimmy’s parents once met President Clinton when he was signing an act after Jimmy was abducted. If you had a poster of a missing child, you couldn’t post it in a federal building. President Clinton signed an executive order allowing the posting of pictures of missing children. They were also invited to the White House to meet with President George W. Bush. They met with him in the White House and said it was really a very powerful and memorable meeting. So, my mission in life, now that Jimmy’s parents are gone, is to keep this organization going in perpetuity
Why is it important for others to give back?
Because it changes lives in ways you will never even know. It’s really something that comes from within. I think everybody has something to give in some form, and its life changing. To be able to take your skills or your energy and use them toward something that can change the world. The fact that our bloodhounds help find missing children and adults — I just can’t put that into words.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Terri? Find local volunteer opportunities.