Trooper who advocates for missing kids faces battle with cancer

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by LORI MATSUKAWA / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on November 2, 2012 at 6:05 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 2 at 7:11 PM

PACIFIC, Wash. -- In the lot at Gordon Trucking, the shiny face of Kayla Croft-Payne looks down from five trailers. The larger than life photo brings hope to Thomas Payne, whose daughter has been missing for two years.

"Can't believe my daughter is on the side of a truck," he says, shaking his head. "It's still so surreal." Payne hopes the image -- driving down the road -- will spark someone's memory and they will call the Homeward Bound tipline.

Project Homeward Bound was launched by State Patrol trooper Renee Padgett, who came up with the idea in 2005 while driving in traffic. "I was looking around at the trailers with nothing really on them. And the thought crossed my mind, 'What if my child was missing?" she recalled.

In the last seven years, Homeward Bound has put the faces of 24 missing kids on the back of 125 tractor-trailers.  So far, six kids have been found. "It's just like, yaaay! You know we made a difference!" smiles Padgett.

But Trooper Padgett now faces the possibility that she, herself, will be missing from her children's lives. She was recently diagnosed with multiple myeloma. "The first thought right when I got diagnosed that day, the first thing I said to my doctor was 'What about my children?' and I broke down crying."

Her fellow law enforcers and the community are fundraising to pay for treatments not covered by insurance, including two stem cell transplants.   Lt. Debby Jacobson, Padgett's supervisor, said Renee inspires them all with her energy. "She's a mother herself so she has that passion and compassion for the people that have children out there missing.  And even though she's got her own battles right now, it's forefront on her mind to keep this (Homeward Bound) program going," said Jacobson.

And that's what Trooper Padgett wants most of all -- for parents and their kids to be together.

Sponsorship of Homeward Bound by Gordon Trucking and I-Magic allows the photos of the missing kids to be updated as the years ago by. Among those enhanced are photos of  Lindsey Baum, Kyron Horman and Teekah Lewis.  Trooper Padgett's friends have set up a fund to help with treatment costs. www.gofundme.com/Trooper-Renee.

More information on fund to help Trooper Renee Padgett.

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