Ed Smart

The new issue of People magazine has a special section honoring the "Heroes Among Us." One of this year's heroes is Ed Smart.

The kidnapping of Smart's daughter Elizabeth in 2002 and safe return in 2003 drew international attention.

Ed Smart has since become a leader in pressing for stricter laws against people who commit crimes against children and an advocate for better methods in safely returning missing or abducted children.

Smart is also a member of the Surviving Parents Coalition, a group of about 15 people who have had a child abducted and assaulted. Other members include Marc Klass, father of Polly Klass; Elaine Runyan-Simmons whose 3-year-old daughter was abducted from Sunset and killed 25 years ago; and John and Maggie Bish whose 16-year-old daughter Molly was abducted while working as a lifeguard in 2001 and killed.

The Surviving Parents Coalition is calling for increased funding nationally for the Internet Crimes Against Children task forces and is pushing for the passage of a bill that calls for more accountability for judges.

"Rather than individually work on bills, we're trying to collectively work on stiffer penalties," Smart said. "We're trying to make it so other families don't have to go through the things we have."

The group is also pushing for more funding for the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act which governs how sex offenders are monitored.

ICAC groups, including the one at the Utah Attorney General's Office, are severely underfunded, Smart said. Additional money is needed for items such as processing hard-drives and other computer equipment so that evidence can be presented in court.

Unlike many others who have had children abducted, the story of Elizabeth Smart ended with the most unlikely of scenarios: Elizabeth found alive nine months after she was taken.

"I think from day one we felt very very blessed. That first day coming from the house, I thought about how many parents would love to be in this situation. I was feeling almost guilty we were so blessed," Ed Smart said.

Now, Smart and others in coalition hope they can do something to influence change.

For being selected as one of People's heroes this year, Smart and his family will attend a special event in Beverly Hills, Calif., next week.

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