The face of Adam David Falk, a 6-year-old Encinitas boy who was described by his mother as having a pleasant and outgoing nature, will soon be seen on several million breakfast tables throughout Southern California.
Adam is not a world-famous athlete whose face might be expected to appear on a box of breakfast cereal. He's a missing child, and his face and a brief description will be featured on milk cartons.
The picture will be part of a larger effort to make the public more aware of the hundreds of children who are kidnaped each year in San Diego County.
The project will be sponsored by Swiss Dairies distributor Frank Najor, who said he got the idea from a similar project backed by a Chicago milk distributor.
Najor, who has been a distributor for almost two years, said he is printing the pictures because children are important to him and he wants to do whatever he can to help return missing children to their parents.
"I think it is a service to the community," Najor said. ". . . If I ever lost my children it would be a tragedy."
Najor estimated that he will pay $20,000 a year to print the pictures on the 120,000 milk containers distributed daily by his company. In addition, the company will offer a $5,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of any of the children whose pictures appear on the cartons.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Alta-Dena Dairy have also combined forces to put pictures of missing children on more than 400,000 milk containers, its entire monthly production of the half-gallon containers.
It will be early next month before the first pictures reach grocery stores in San Diego County, Najor said. Each container will feature two children, a new child being featured every three weeks.
Adam Falk and Laura Ann Bradbury, 3, of Huntington Beach, will be the first two children seen on the cartons, he said.
Laura vanished Oct. 18 while on a family camping trip to Joshua Tree National Monument. The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department searched several days before concluding that she had been abducted. A blue van driven by a heavy-set man was seen speeding away from the park.
Authorities believe Adam was abducted Dec. 6 by his father, Robert, who was separated from Adam's mother. Falk, of La Jolla, had told his estranged wife that he was taking Adam to Disneyland, but the two never returned.
Sharon Falk said she is not sure how much help the milk cartons will be, but she is ready to try anything to get her son back.
"I know his father watches the news on television," she said. "Maybe it will have some effect on him. I feel that I have to do everything I can to find him."
No parent can understand what it is like to have a missing child until it happens, she said.
"It's not like a death because it is not a complete loss," she said through tears. "It's a kind of limbo you live in.
"I cannot put his (Christmas) toys away or it would make me realize that he is not coming back . . . I think he is missing me very much."
Michael and Patty Bradbury said they have distributed more than a million flyers with pictures of their daughter, Laura. Having her face on the milk cartons will increase the chances of her being found, they said.
"We cannot tell Mr. Najor how much we appreciate this," Patty said. "What we need is for people to keep looking for her."
Public awareness of missing children is vital to their safe return, said Sgt. Gregory T. Drilling, juvenile administration officer with the San Diego Police Department. Media attention is credited for the return of about 40% of all missing children.
Twenty to 25 children are abducted in San Diego County each month by one of their own parents, he said. Only about one child each year is abducted by a stranger.
He said the low rate of abductions by strangers should be credited to public awareness and an effort to educate children about how to avoid being kidnaped.