DENVER —Saturday is Missing Persons Day in Colorado.
According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, nearly 600 people have been missing in the state for at least a year.
Families with missing loved ones gathered at the state capitol on Friday as lawmakers approved a resolution, officially recognizing Saturday, Feb. 4 as Missing Persons Day in Colorado.
The resolution included the names of hundreds of people who are still missing in Colorado.
“When I think of that many people missing, it's really hard,” said Britney Hartman.
Hartman runs Justice Takes Flight, a Lafayette, Colorado-based nonprofit made up of volunteers who try to help families find their missing loved ones.
“Missing persons don't get an advocate. They have the officer that's on their case, but they don't have anything else,” said Hartman. “That's where we come in. We try to help support the families however they need.”
Hartman’s journey helping in missing person cases began after her two-year-old niece was murdered a few years ago.
Hartman said she began attending grief support groups, where she met grief-stricken families with missing loved ones.
“They said there was a big lack of help in missing persons, so I just decided to start volunteering. And that's how I started on this journey,” said Hartman.
Hartman said she first got involved in the Kelsey Berreth case.
Berreth, a Colorado mom, went missing in November 2018.
Berreth’s husband, Patrick Frazee, was later convicted and sentenced to life in prison for her murder.
For Hartman, the Berreth case was a big turning point in her life.
“From there, all of us decided that what we were doing was important and needed, so we decided to form a group. And that's when we applied for the nonprofit status,” said Hartman.
Hartman says the group’s name, Justice Takes Flight, was inspired by Berreth’s love of piloting.
Hartman and volunteers with Justice Takes Flight help families by making flyers and spreading the word about missing people on social media.
In some cases, they conduct searches themselves, with the help of their tracking dogs.
“As of this year, so far, we've helped seven cases,” said Hartman. “Last year, we had 37 cases that we helped, and we had two dogs that had their first find last year.”
Hartman’s group used their bloodhounds to help about three dozen families locate missing pets after the Marshall Fire.
Hartman said no matter the outcome of missing person cases, families are relieved to finally have answers.
“Even if it's not the best circumstances, and it's the worst-case scenario, they're just so grateful,” said Hartman.
Hartman says she’s thankful she was able to turn her personal grief of losing her niece into something that can help others.
“All the people that we've helped, it's because of her,” said Hartman. “In a way, she's being carried through our memories and our actions and she's touching a lot of lives.”