Area Masons working to help find lost kids

Ken Johnston

What would you do if your child went missing?
You likely would call the police, but would you be ready to help them find your child as quickly and as effectively as possible?
Ken McDonald of Stratton, a member of the Masonic Lodge in Emo (Manitou Lodge #631), together with members from the Rainy River and Fort Frances lodges, are spearheading efforts locally to bring the “MasoniCHiP” program to this area to get parents prepared in case the unimaginable ever were to happen here.
MasoniCHiP stands for Masonic Child Identification Program. It’s a little more than a year old in Ontario, and the program recently surpassed its 12,000th child identified.
The free program utilizes special technology that takes a digital photograph, digital video, digital fingerprints, vital child information, and either a dental bite impression or an Intra Oral Swab.
All the information then is burned to a CD ROM and given to the parents to keep in a safe place so that if the unthinkable were to happen, the police would have all the tools they need to attempt to find the missing child quickly.
McDonald said the initiative came to light during the last Deputy Grand Master’s term (Dan Johnson of Rainy River), but there was not enough time left on his watch to get it up and running here. So under the new Deputy Grand Master (Bob Cox of Atikokan), Masonic lodges in the region have been working to bring the MasoniCHiP program to their respective communities.
At first, McDonald said they weren’t sure there was a problem here (one of the safest areas of Ontario to live). But then seeing statistics like the one that nearly 55 kids per day are reported missing in Ontario, they came to the conclusion that “it could happen here.”
There are four of the special identification machines in Thunder Bay. McDonald said they are hoping that if there’s enough interest, they will bring at least one—and perhaps more—of them to the Emo Walleye Classic on May 28-30.
“We need about 50 kids to make it viable,” explained McDonald, noting the three lodges in Rainy River, Emo, and Fort Frances will pay the costs for the kids to be identified.
He also stressed that everything is strictly confidential.
“We take the photos, fingerprint them, and compile the information,” he explained. “But once the package is done, all of it is completely erased from the machine we use.”
All the information then is handed to the parents in an envelope. The only thing the Masons keep is a permission slip signed by a parent or guardian giving them permission to I.D. the child.
For that reason, each child must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian to have MasoniCHiP done.
At this time, the local Masons are testing the waters to see if there’s enough interest here to bring the program in. If it is overwhelming, they likely will hold it again at a later date and likely at locations elsewhere in the district.
To sign up, parents should call McDonald (Emo-Stratton area) at 483-5460, Dan Johnson (Rainy River-Morson-Pinewood area) at 852-3331, or Alan Tibbetts (Fort Frances area) at 274-6687.
Organizations like the Ontario Amber Alert system have complimented the Masons on this free service and how effective it is in helping police get all the vital information out as quickly as possible when a child goes missing.
And the thought that it won’t happen here is nonsense. Newspapers in this district received several missing person’s notices from the OPP in 2008 alone.
The procedure takes about 15 minutes per child, and all operators of the machine have had criminal records checks. Again, all information gathered is wiped from the machine right after the parents get the disk and vital info on paper.
“The first two hours after a child goes missing are the most critical,” McDonald stressed. “We, as Masons, hope that we can make a difference by providing parents the tools to help get their kid back.”