Gina DeJesus was just 14 years old when she was abducted by a friend’s father, Ariel Castro, in Cleveland, Ohio. Now 29, DeJesus is co-founder of the Cleveland Family Center for Missing Children and Adults.
Georgina DeJesus was walking home from April 2, 2004, when she was abducted by Castro. He held her against her will for nine years, along with Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight. The women were freed May 6, 2013. Two years after their release, Berry and DeJesus graduated from high school. DeJesus was given the quinceañera she never had, according to ABC News.
The Cleveland Family Center for Missing Children and Adults is designed to give to families what Gina DeJesus’ family needed when she was missing. They were given no resources to help find the teen, her cousin and co-founder Silvia Colon said, according to WKYC. The family printed out flyers, and DeJesus’ mom even gave one directly to Castro.
Here’s what you need to know:
Gina DeJesus founded a Center for Missing People in Cleveland With her Cousin
Gina DeJesus co-founded the Cleveland Family Center for Missing Children and Adults in 2018 with her cousin, Silvia Colon. The center was founded to deter abductions, exploitation, and trafficking, establish a place for families and survivors to come for support and resources, provide prevention training to the community and raise awareness to create a safe and secure community for all citizen, the website says.
DeJesus announced the center was opening during a panel at the Ohio Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Conference in Columbus in 2018. The center was already a non-profit, and the group announced it would open a brick-and-mortar location, according to WKYC.
The family had no resources to help find Gina, Colon told the news outlet.
“We begged for everything, and I mean everything,” Colon said. “We didn’t have any resources, and nobody was offering them, so we had to figure out a way to win.”
They printed out flyers, and one reached Gina, the station reported.
“My mom gave [captor Ariel Castro] a flyer, and he brought it back to me. And he gave it to me…I don’t know. It didn’t hurt me, or make me depressed or anything, it just gave me a different kind of hope, like my mom is still out there looking for me,” Gina said. “I put it away in my folder, and I’m like, I’m going to give this to my mom one day.”
“Georgina (Gina) DeJesus was abducted on April 2, 2004 while walking home from school in Cleveland, Ohio. She was held against her will for 9 years, she escaped with two others on May 6, 2013. Her story is known around the world,” he profile on the center’s website said.
Her capture also spurred her cousin to found organization after the family searched for DeJesus for years.
“Silvia Colon Gina’s cousin, is a social activist in Cleveland, Ohio. Her family’s experience with Gina’s abduction has ignited a passion in her to help other families navigate through this unimaginable time and to help bring their loved ones home,” he profile says.
Amanda Berry & Gina DeJesus Wrote a Memoir About Their Capture, Survival & Their Lives Today
Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus shared their stories in a book, Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland, which was published in April 2015. The book became a No. 1 New York Times Bestseller.
“The most inspiring part of the Amanda Berry story is that she created a little school in the house on Seymour Avenue,” Mary Jordan told News 5 Cleveland. Jordan and Kevin Sullivan were Washington Post journalists who helped Berry and DeJesus write their book.
“Drawing upon their recollections and the diary kept by Amanda Berry, Berry and Gina DeJesus describe a tale of unimaginable torment, and Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post reporters Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan interweave the events within Castro’s house with original reporting on efforts to find the missing girls,” the book’s description says. “The full story behind the headlines—including details never previously released on Castro’s life and motivations—Hope is a harrowing yet inspiring chronicle of two women whose courage, ingenuity, and resourcefulness ultimately delivered them back to their lives and families.”