Twelve-year-old Polly Hannah Klaas was having a slumber party when a strange man wielding a knife entered her bedroom, tied up all the girls and put pillow cases over their heads. The intruder then took a sobbing Polly off into the night. It was October 1, 1993.
An intense search began. Nine weeks later, on December 3, 1993, Polly’s body was found.
The Search for Polly
The people in Polly’s home town, Petaluma, CA, and surrounding communities banded together and formed the Polly Klaas Search Center. Men, women and children came by the dozens to do what they could—answer phones, stuff envelopes, and search the surrounding woods. There were almost 4000 volunteers.
Local businesses donated everything—office tables, chairs, phones, phone lines, pens, pencils, mailing envelopes, and postage. Residents brought food, and restaurants delivered pizzas, burgers and soft drinks.
Polly’s missing child poster was the first to be distributed world-wide over the Internet, which is one of the reasons why so many people know about Polly Klaas. The international press came to Petaluma, covering this kidnapping as they had no other.
When Polly’s body was found, the world mourned. People were stunned by their lost sense of personal security—a child had been kidnapped from her very own bedroom. They felt betrayed by a legal system that could not manage to keep a repeat offender from harming a child.
The Beginnings of the Polly Klaas Foundation
In the midst of searching for Polly, phone calls began coming in from other parents whose children were missing. These parents wanted advice on ways to find their children. Some volunteers at the Polly Klaas Search Center began to specialize in helping other parents find their missing children.
Within a month after Polly’s kidnapping, the volunteer search team received official non-profit status. And the Polly Klaas Foundation was born.
By working together with families, the community, law enforcement, policymakers, and media, we educate children, parents, and the entire community on how to bring children home and keep them safe.
The Polly Klaas Foundation is dedicated to the safety of all children.
To read an extended version of Polly’s Story with photos, click here.