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Ex-MMA Wrestler Helps Kids Fight Abduction

MOUNT KISCO, N.Y.—One might think it would be hard to scare former mixed martial arts fighter Larry Byrnes, but he is very forthcoming about his biggest and most frightening fear.

“Six years ago I had my first child, and your life changes quickly,” Byrnes said. “My worst nightmare in life is that something is going to happen to my son, and I know every parent is the same way.”

Because of this fear, Byrnes, who grew up in Yorktown and now lives in Yonkers, created the CHILDSAFE program for kids and parents in his Tiger Schulman’s Karate and Mixed Martial Arts studio in Mount Kisco. On Saturday, the program was attended by local parents and children, the room filled with curious and intent listeners.

“The thing about kidnapping is that kidnappers figure out ways to get kids to come with them that aren’t obvious, that will trick them,” says local parent Madeline Finesmith. “Things that a parent won’t think of. What this program will help is it will make kids aware that it’s not always the obvious signs, and any adult can take them some place.”

Byrnes agreed with his program’s instructions theme of collaboration between parent and child. “[We’re talking about] basic awareness things: don’t talk to strangers, don’t walk away from your parents in a crowded place,” he said. “If you’re home by yourself…don’t answer the door. If you have to answer the phone, don’t let it known that you are alone in the house.”

While the kids were willing to pay attention to their teacher for the afternoon, parents’ ears were stung with some frightening statistics that Byrnes gave them.

“46 percent of kids who are abducted are sexually abused…31 percent are physically abused…40 percent of kids kidnapped are killed. Four percent are never found,” he said, with others that followed. “And most abductions happen within a quarter-mile of the house.”

One of the basic tactics Byrnes advised parents and kids to use is the use of a code word. If the child says it to a stranger and does not get a response back, they should know not to follow them and stay put until the parent returns. Hailing from northern Westchester, Byrnes knows the stigma that can be placed on the environment, which he hopes to dispel.

“The further you go up from the city, people continue to think they’re safer, because we’re in a nice area,” Byrnes said. “But in the world we live in, you’re kids aren’t safe just because they’re upstate.”

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