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Patty Wetterling gets national honor for tireless efforts fighting child exploitation

Her son, Jacob Wetterling, was abducted and murdered in 1989.
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Patty Wetterling is being honored with a national award for her tireless efforts to combat the sexual abuse and exploitation of children.

After her son Jacob Wetterling was abducted and murdered in 1989, Patty co-founded the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center with her husband Jerry, with the aim of ensuring other families never have to go through what hers did.

On Friday, she was named the recipient of the 2017 Gail Burns-Smith Award, which is bestowed by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.

Wetterling received the award during the 2017 National Sexual Assault Conference in Dallas.

Karen Baker, NSVRC Director, said in a news release: "I have been inspired by the professional accomplishments of each of our honorees since the award began in 2010, but Patty is unique.

"Her commitment to the work comes from unimaginable personal heartbreak and yet she finds the strength and courage to continually uplift the positive. She chose to commit her personal and professional life to prevention — to making our world safe for all children, even though it was not for her own."

"She is an inspiration to all the friends, colleagues, and parents who know her – and most of all, she has been a great gift to children,"ATSA's Executive Director Maia Christopher added. "I am honored to be able to present her with this well-deserved award in recognition of her many contributions."

As well as leading the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, Patty also founded Team H.O.P.E, a volunteer group providing support and resources for families with missing or exploited children.

She has also held child protection roles at the state and national level.

While growing the resource center, the Wetterlings continued to pursue the truth about their son's disappearance, which went unsolved for nearly 27 years. Last year, Danny Heinrich admitted to killing the then 11-year-old and told police where he buried Jacob's body.

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