As the weekend of Mayfest approaches, kids are itching to run around the carnival and test their bravery on every ride. But one very important service will also be available this Saturday at the Colonnade Room, and that’s the MoCHIP Child Identification Program.

The program is a comprehensive child identification program designed to give families a measure of protection if a child goes missing or is abducted, according to the Masonic Children’s Foundation of Missouri. On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., local volunteers and representatives of MoCHIP will be available to help families collect important information about their children in a format that will allow for a quick response, should an Amber Alert ever need to be issued.

“This will be the first time they’ve come to Perryville,” said Maurice Plunkett of Perryville, who has helped coordinate the event with his older brother, John. Both are members of the 38 Masonic District of Missouri. “I first found out about it when I went to help down there at Cape.”

Plunkett explained that MoCHIP has been implemented in both Cape Girardeau and Ste. Genevieve, and he is glad that families in Perryville will soon have an opportunity to better ensure the safety of their children.

“I’ve got children, I’ve got grandchildren, I’ve got great-grandchildren,” said Plunkett, noting that the safety of his family is top priority.

The free event requires no preregistration, and will be in an ideal location for families to stop by on the way to the carnival. The process takes approximately 15 minutes, and is open to children from age 0-21. Despite the misleading acronym, MoCHIP does not involve any sort of microchip.

“The MoCHIP is just an abbreviation for Missouri Child Identification Program,” said Plunkett.

The program consists of five major components:

Digital photographs

Digital fingerprints

Child information and emergency contacts

Dental bite impression

Two laminated ID cards

Because the dental bite also includes a DNA sample, MoCHIP representatives have asked that parents bring their children to the Colonnade Room before they take off on rides or eat lunch, as some foods can skew the DNA results.

“They do all the identification, put it on a CD, and then give the CD to the parents,” said Plunkett. “The parents can take that CD to the police department or the sheriff’s department and they read it, it goes out on the Amber Alert system.”

Plunkett added that the CD is the only place that the information will be kept, as the MoCHIP computers are wiped clean of any information before they leave town as an extra security measure.

“That way it’s not online somewhere, or somebody else can’t read it,” said Plunket. “It gives the parents instant information instead of them trying to remember or find a picture.”

Local volunteers include community members, masons, a dental aide, and representatives of the Perry County Memorial Hospital, the Perry County Sheriff’s Office, and the Perryville Police Department

“We think it’s a real good deal,” said Plunkett.

He hopes that the event’s proximity to the carnival will result in more families taking advantage of the free service.

For more information, call Maurice Plunkett at (573) 547-2348 or John Plunkett at (573) 547-4185, or visit MoCHIP.org.

By Heather C. Cook | Republic Monitor