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Parents of Danielle Van Dam Hold Press Conference

Aired February 14, 2002 - 11:03   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We need to take you to San Diego, California, now. The parents of Danielle Van Dam, the missing seven- year-old girl.


DAMON VAN DAM, FATHER: As of Monday, February 18th, the Danielle Recovery Center will be located at the Re/Max Building on the corner of Pomerado and Poway Roads. The phone number will remain as 858-458- 4811. And if we could get that number out, it would be great.


D. VAN DAM: Did I say it backwards? I'm sorry. 858-485-4188. The new director will be Diane Halfman, she's a retired policewomen, close friend. The deputy director will be Fiona Overrick. Search operations will be headed by Greg Trunt. Rewards are coordinated by Bill Libby. Paula Call will be the communications coordinator. Susan Winterstein is coordinating the community involvement.

Thanks to all these people for taking over. They're really putting in great efforts, and we really appreciate it. The Laura Foundation under the leadership of Bob Wolcott and Don Davis came to San Diego to set up and organize the Danielle Recovery Center and to mobilize volunteers to search for Danielle. The foundation has been training volunteers to take over this effort since they spent the last two weeks putting all the systems in place, so that the local people -- local leadership could take over.

Also, a thanks to the Carmel Mountain Doubletree, who has -- who has opened up their doors to help in the effort. And a special thanks again to Bob Wolcott, Don Davis, and Bob Smithers. These people have left their families to come and help in this. They're all out of Texas and Bob's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) lost his daughter. They are saints. I can't -- I can't believe the effort they have put forth for us.

QUESTION: You've had a lot of help from your friends and complete strangers. I know you had to be stunned by some of the things that happened last week with regard the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) children's fund. Now, mark comes in who has got a unique perspective. How much is he helping?

D. VAN DAM: He's helped a lot. He's very good at expressing our feelings that we aren't sometimes so good at, and he understands. He's hepled us a lot in talking, with me at least, we've had a lot of talk time. He's a great guy, and I'm very glad we have him here.

QUESTION: What are you telling them? How can you make things (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? Obviously you have some kind skills (ph).

MARK KLAAS, KLAASKIDS FOUNDATION: What I can do for the Van Dams is point out the obvious. They inherently know that they have to get up and stay strong every day for their daughter. They know that they have to maintain hope. They know that everything is really dependent upon them. These are the generals in the -- in the war to bring their daughter home. And maybe I can say that, maybe it will give it a little of context. These are things that they already know. I do this kind of stuff all over the country. Going and talk to families and see what I can do to help these efforts.

But I have to say that coming down here and meeting the Van Dams and meeting these wonderful people whose names they just read off into the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) recovery center. All of these people are putting together an absolutely first-rate effort. This is one of the best recovery efforts I've ever seen. And it got off the ground very quickly and it's moving forward very fast. Maybe I can offer a little direction, but you know what, sometimes all you can do is promote what's already going on. So, you know, I just think it's absolutely marvelous.

QUESTION: Mark, is the foundation in your daughter's name going to be contributing any money to the Danielle Recovery Foundation?

KLAAS: Well, that, I don't know. I have nothing to do with them. I have the KlassKids Foundation. And we'll do what we can, certainly. We're -- but we're paying for the buttons that they're getting. But, you know, then, again, there are other ways to contribute without contributing money. That having been said, I'd like to just make a couple of comments here.

I think that people around here have just come forth and done so much for the family and particularly for little Danielle. But I think people have to remember that one of the lessons here, that if somebody can come into a home and take a little child out of her bedroom, it can happen to anybody. That if it can happen to this child, every child is vulnerable. And I think you want to respond to this child's plight and as you would want your child's plight to be responded to.

In other words, they're going to be doing searches this weekend, and people should come out and search. They're going to need resources if they're going to be able to maintain this effort. People should give resources. They should donate money if they can do that. They should volunteer their time. They should donate in kind types of contributions. There's a lot of ways that people can step forth and help little Danielle. They can be in their prayers. They can be supportive. They can put fliers of the little girl in their vehicles.

There's just so many ways that this community can come together and put out a very strong statement, that statement being, that this is a community that looks after its children and is not going to tolerate predatory behavior. QUESTION: Mark, how do you keep the Van Dams hopeful, especially when police are saying that the longer it takes to find her the worse the chances are of finding her (ph)?

KLAAS: Well, I don't keep the Van Dams hopeful. The Van Dams keep me hopeful, quite frankly. You know, the numbers get bandied about. But here's some numbers for you. They say that 74 percent of children that are murdered as a result of an abduction will not last the first two hours. I would suggest, then, that if Danielle made through that first night, that she out there, and she's waiting for her parents and the rest of the community to come and get her.

There's no reason in the world anybody should ever give up hope on this little child, until there is absolutely proof put in front of them.


QUESTION: Brenda, how are the boys doing? (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

B. VAN DAM: I think they're hanging in there. They're afraid to be alone. They're still sleeping with us, and we are going to seek counseling next week for them.


QUESTION: There was a flurry of activity yesterday. Did you get any kind of a progress report or update from the police department?

D. VAN DAM: Only that they're still working on it. They came in and took prints at our house, and we know they're still working the case.

B. VAN DAM: And I have one thing to say. If the police think that they have the right person, and they have their man, we don't have our daughter. So we -- even though that end of it may be, you know, coming to a close, we don't have her back and that's what's most important...

D. VAN DAM: Yes.

B. VAN DAM: having her back.

D. VAN DAM: And we need help. Like we keep reiterating. Please call you know, the number. I keep saying 858-458-4188

B. VAN DAM: 485. 485.


D. VAN DAM: 485. I'm going dyslexic, here. Anybody that can come out this weekend. It's a big weekend for search and we want to find her.

QUESTION: Brenda, the fact the mark has come to help you. What does that mean to you?

B. VAN DAM: I think it makes us a little stronger when we hear him speak and talk to us. And it's very nice to have that support from someone who is already gone through what we're going through. I don't think any of you have any idea what we are going through. And you wouldn't want to walk a day in my shoes, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. And it saddens me that -- that this has all happened, but he is -- he's here. He's been through it and he's -- he's our support.

QUESTION: Are you hopeful that it's not David Westerfield (ph) because if it is, then that's more bad news for you.

D. VAN DAM: That's...

B. VAN DAM: Are we hopeful it's not him?

D. VAN DAM: I think that, in my mind, I think that's all beside the point. We're trying to find Danielle.

B. VAN DAM: We just want to find Danielle.

D. VAN DAM: And after we find Danielle, we'll worry about anything else.

QUESTION: And you still have the search that's going on this weekend in the desert? And you still need help (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

D. VAN DAM: Locally and the desert. Anyone that can search, anywhere in San Diego Imperial Counties, you know come out, give us call at recovery center, and we'll find a place for you to help.

QUESTION: Have you had a chance to meet all of these volunteers? That don't even know you, that don't know your daughter, that are so willing to help you? (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

B. VAN DAM: Yes. We have gone over there, we've had meetings over there.

D. VAN DAM: Not all of them. But every time we go over there, there's a search crew coming in or going out. And we stop them and give as many thank yous as we can. And everyone is just -- tells us they're very happy to be doing it for us. And I'm just amazed at how many great people there are.

QUESTION: Does it surprise -- did it surprise you that so many people willing to help a family they didn't even know?

B. VAN DAM: No. It didn't because if this was somebody else's child, I know that I would be willing to go out and help. And this is what I keep telling my boys, is that there are a lot -- there are more good people in the world than bad. And this is just proof that there are people that are loving and caring and are willing go and help.

QUESTION: Mrs. Van Dam, are you afraid that the police have lost the focus in this case, and they're more interested in getting the bad guy than in finding Danielle? D. VAN DAM: That's their job.

B. VAN DAM: Absolutely not. They -- they are still looking. Absolutely not.

KLAAS: If I might for a moment. That's -- that's where goals separate a little bit. Their goal is to get the bad guy. Their goal, your goal and our goal is to bring the little girl home. And that's why the help is needed. That's why it's so desperately needed.


D. VAN DAM: That's besides our point here I think.

B. VAN DAM: I guess -- I guess that time will come when they -- when they are ready. That time will come.


B. VAN DAM: It gets harder each day, but I have to keep in my...

D. VAN DAM: We're doing our best to hold out our hope.

B. VAN DAM: I have to just keep hope that she's still alive and that she is coming home.

QUESTION: President (UNINTELLIGIBLE) asked us to please keep the focus on Danielle and finding Danielle. But still, the idea (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Everytime you leave, that that presence there. Tell us what that is doing to your psyche and your sons' sense of well being (ph)?

B. VAN DAM: It's not good.

D. VAN DAM: Brenda's getting a little more angry about, and I'm -- I'm, like I said, pushing it to the back of my mind, and I'm keeping my focus in finding her.

B. VAN DAM: Let me just tell you, it's so hard for me to deal with the fact that somebody knows where my baby is and it's not me. And somebody out there knows where she is, and that is killing me. Because I'm the one who should know where she is. And I just want to go and say, "please tell me where she is." You know, this is difficult.

D. VAN DAM: Okay? All right.

QUESTION: What stops you from doing that?

B. VAN DAM: Because I wouldn't want to hurt the investigation in any way.

D. VAN DAM: Okay. Thank you, all.

QUESTION: You offered a reward, can you just give us an update on exactly where that all stands. D. VAN DAM: Oh! We have a reward of $25,000.

B. VAN DAM: Well, we have our personal reward of $25,000.

D. VAN DAM: We know other rewards have been in the news. We don't know the details on how those work or whatever. They're separate from our reward. All we know is about our $25,000, and it -- but anyone else who is offering rewards, thank you very much. If it helps...

KLAAS: The terms of the reward.

D. VAN DAM: Oh! The terms of our reward are the return of Danielle.

B. VAN DAM: The return of Danielle.

D. VAN DAM: That's it. The others we don't know. But thank you to those who have assisted with rewards.

B. VAN DAM: Thank you, all.

D. VAN DAM: Thanks. Thanks so much.

KAGAN: We've been listening live to the Van Dams, the parents of Danielle Van Dam, the seven-year-old girl that's been missing now. Let's just listen one more time. Oh, they're just going to take a picture of the latest picture that their releasing of Danielle Van Dam. She's been missig now for almost two weeks. Taken from her own home just outside of San Diego. At their side Mark Klaas, a man who knows only too well what it feels like to lose a daughter. His 12 year old daughter, Polly Klaas, taken from her home, back in 1993, and later found murdered.

The reward, by the way, for the return of Danielle Van Dam remains at $25,000.




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