The father of a teen who was sexually assaulted and murdered by a convicted sex offender on Friday was one of 56 people across the country honored by the FBI for their efforts to help prevent crime and enact tougher laws.
Brent King of Naperville has worked tirelessly since his daughter, Chelsea King, disappeared while jogging in a San Diego County park in February 2010. The Kings lived in the San Diego area at the time of the crime but have since moved back to the Chicago area.
"He is a quiet man with a huge heart, with a vision for helping us all keep our children safe," FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Grant said at the University Club of Chicago in presenting King with the Director's Community Leadership Award.
In the wake of his daughter's death, King and his wife, Kelly, launched Chelsea's Light Foundation. The non-profit organization, according to its Facebook page, "aims to unite and lead people who are passionate about protecting children and inspiring positive change in their communities."
The group has helped organize races in the teen's honor and created service scholarships for students. In its first year, the organization awarded $65,000 to college-bound seniors, established a peer counseling program and developed an outreach and support initiative for the victims of sexual assault.
"We call it service over self, so those kids that really just give back to their communities, we find a way to give to them," said King.
Most importantly to the family, however, was the passage of Chelsea's Law in California. The law, in part, enacts a one-strike, life without parole sentencing option for the most dangerous sexual offenders. The law immediately went into effect with then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature a year ago.
King is now working to pass similar legislation in five other states, including Illinois. Kelly King said Friday's award inspires them to keep pushing forward.
"It's a wonderful honor, but at the same time what brought us to this place, it's so bittersweet," she said.
Established in 1990, the DCLA is presented annually to one individual in each of the FBI's domestic field offices.
Chelsea King's killer, John Albert Gardner III, has since been convicted and sentenced to life in prison.