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Local man makes child rescue his mission

TV series to feature man¿¿¿s efforts to recover kidnapping victims.

February 09, 2011|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com

An episode in a Discovery Channel series about the military-style rescue of kidnapping victims around the globe will on Saturday spotlight a local man’s efforts to recover children from sexual exploitation and abuse by human traffickers.

But part of what makes former bodyguard Ty Ritter’s story unique is that his missions to South America, the Middle East and other faraway lands are all-volunteer efforts funded primarily through donations to a nonprofit organization.

“We fill a gap. Traffickers are operating like the drug cartels do. It’s an epidemic,” said Ritter during an interview at Taylor’s Steakhouse in La Cañada Flintridge, where over the years he’s made the social connections necessary to found and operate his La Crescenta-based nonprofit Project Child Save.

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The U.S. State Department last year estimated that more than 12 million people, most of them women and children, are subjected to forced labor and prostitution around the world.

Project Child Save aims to locate and recover children kidnapped in America and trafficked to other countries. It works with families who contact the group or are referred to it after exhausting other options, including law enforcement.

Ritter, who at 64 shows few signs of retiring his combat boots, said he and a handful of mostly ex-military volunteers have conducted more than a dozen such covert missions over the past several years, but there’s no fanfare surrounding these rescues.

While Ritter is staunch in protecting the privacy of those he assists — one area family confirmed they’d sought his assistance but asked not to be identified — he points to scars left by knives and bullet wounds on his face, chest and legs as evidence of his work.

“I’ve seen him come back with gunshot wounds on his legs, a machete wound across his cheek and broken ribs. I’ve also seen the files on some of the children that have been involved, and I’ve met some of his team that goes out with him,” said Ian Loveless, a La Cañada Flintridge insurance agent who stepped in to chair the nonprofit’s board after meeting Ritter at Taylor’s and organizing a charity golf tournament that raised approximately $30,000 for the cause. Loveless’s wife, Denise Loveless, also serves on the board.

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