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Jaycee Gives Hope to Missing Kids' Parents

The case of Jaycee Lee Dugard brings to mind the 2002 abduction of Samantha Runnion, which captivated the nation.

Samantha was just 5 years old when she was snatched by a stranger from her front yard. Her battered, naked body was discovered on a highway the next day.

The little girl had been sexually assaulted and murdered by a 27-year-old man named Alejandro Avila. He had lured Samantha into his car by telling her he had lost his dog.

Avila was arrested three days after the abduction and was sentenced to death in 2005.

But that's not the end of Samantha's story.

In her daughter's memory, Erin Runnion decided to fight back. She founded the Joyful Child Foundation, which seeks to protect children from sexual predators by developing child watch and other programs programs in communities, and encourage research and development into the psyche of predators.

Runnion told "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith Friday that the discovery of Dugard and her daughters has brought optimism to many parents of abducted children.

"I know so many families now who are parents of long-term missing children," Runnion said, "and Jaycee's story has given so many people so much hope."

She added that the healing can begin now for Dugard and her family -- a healing she will never get to enjoy.

"I would welcome that opportunity," Runnion said. "So I think maybe the lesson here is that we all work together and make sure that we're doing everything we can to watch out for our children and make sure that they know that they're loved unconditionally. And that no matter what happens, they know they are loved."

Smith remarked that perhaps parents are too careful about their children. Can parents worry too much about their children and abduction?

Runnion responded by saying parents do worry about it too much, but are so afraid that they choose not to think about it.

"I think that there is a lot more that parents can do," she said. "(The) only known deterrent to a sex offender is the risk of getting caught. So if all of the parents just do what they can to watch out for the children in their neighborhood, and work together to create a presence of vigilance, we can deter these abductions."

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She added parents should talk with their children and make sure not to just tell them, but practice what to do if someone tries to grab them.

"Because if a child resists, their chances of getting away are very strong," she said. "These guys are cowards."

As for Dugard, Runnion said the family is doing the right thing by avoiding the public eye and enjoying their reunion privately.

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She said Dugard's two daughters Starlet, 15, and Angel, 11, will have a chance to have a real childhood. "(They're) making sure those girls can transition and enjoy the childhood that Jaycee was robbed of."

She added the trial could take years to happen, so it's important for Dugard and her children to get back into a normal life.

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"All of that will come in due time," she said, 'but right now, let's get those kids back into the world and experience a little freedom."