Our Story

The Joyful Child Foundation -­ In Memory of Samantha Runnion is dedicated to the prevention of crimes against children through programs that educate, empower, and unite families and communities.

To fulfill its mission, The Joyful Child Foundation develops, implements, supports, and/or sponsors programs that serve to empower children and adults with tools and training to proactively advocate for safety and better protect children from all forms of abuse, violence, and exploitation, including harassment, sexual abuse, trafficking, and abduction.


Message from Founding Director, Erin Runnion

In 2002, my sweet and joyful child, Samantha Runnion, was playing outside with her friend on a beautiful summer afternoon, when she was abducted by a complete stranger. The next day, her lifeless body was found naked on a hiking trail about 60 miles away. It was 10 days before her 6th birthday.

I felt compelled to understand how something so horrible could happen and the more I learned about crimes against children, the more determined I became to honor not only Samantha, but every child. I understood that what happened to my baby was on the most extreme end of the spectrum of childhood victimization, but I also knew that every number in the staggering statistics below represents another joyful child traumatized.

This Federal Building memorial for Samantha honors all child victims.

Children are the #1 victims of all violent crime of any population group

children are reported missing every year

1 in 4-5 girls and
7-10 boys are
sexually abused
in the U.S.

90% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the family knows and trusts

It is a heartbreaking reality, but thankfully, my research also revealed that best practices for prevention cultivate resilience, empower confidence, and protect joy.

If we want to protect our children, we have to better protect all of our children. I started The Joyful Child Foundation because I wanted to give every parent and caring adult the information, training, and tools to better prevent childhood victimization and protect the joy of every child in their family and community.

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