Vigil to raise awareness on missing persons

Janice Smolinski, right, of Cheshire, shields a lighted candle during the annual ‘Night of Hope’ vigil in 2011 in Naugatuck. The event is held to help raise awareness for missing people throughout the United States. This year’s vigil will be held Sunday on the Town Green. The Smolinkski's son, Billy, went missing August 24, 2004 and to this date, has not been found. –RA ARCHIVE

Janice Smolinski, right, of Cheshire, shields a lighted candle during the annual ‘Night of Hope’ vigil in 2011 in Naugatuck. The event is held to help raise awareness for missing people throughout the United States. This year’s vigil will be held Sunday on the Town Green. The Smolinkski’s son, Billy, went missing August 24, 2004 and to this date, has not been found. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — A “Night of Hope” will be held Sunday evening to raise awareness on the issue of missing persons.

The event was started as a candle light vigil by William and Janice Smolinski for their son, Billy Smolinski, who has been missing since Aug. 24, 2004. He was living in Waterbury at the time.

The event is still held in honor of Billy Smolinski. But, it has grown over the years and is now considered the official Connecticut Missing Persons Day.

The event will be held on the Town Green on Church Street from 6 to 8 p.m. In the event of inclement weather, it will be moved to the lower level of Town Hall.

State Rep. David Labriola (R-131) will be the emcee for the evening.

“Janice Smolinski has been steadfast in her commitment to finding all missing persons and I’m honored to be a part of the annual Night of Hope,” Labriola said in a new release. “Hopefully with events like this we can raise awareness of the missing person crisis and help reunite families.”

The event is open to the public.

The event will feature several speakers, including members of Billy Smolinski’s family, Sgt. James Thomas of the Connecticut State Police Missing Persons Unit, Connecticut Victims’ Advocate Garvin Ambrose, Cathy Kohut of Resources in Search and Rescue, and private investigators Mike Ward and Gil Alba.

There will be a performance from singer Lucia Palmieri Zager and a butterfly release by Billy Smolinski’s sister Paula Smolinski Bell. LostNMissing, a non-profit organization, will set up a table to provide information to the public and families regarding the missing.

Janice Smolinski is also the impetus behind a federal version of “Billy’s Law,” which would link two existing databases maintained by the Department of Justice — the FBI’s National Crime Information Center and the Department of Justice’s National Missing Person and Unidentified Persons System. It would also create a grant program to help local law enforcement and medical examiners report missing persons and unidentified remains to national databases.

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