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Justice, Duty, Honor

Center for Hope

Doug and Mary Lyall create not for profit to remember the missing, especially Suzanne Lyall, and create a monument to missing persons

RemorialBALLSTON SPA — Doug and Mary Lyall of Ballston Spa have founded a new nonprofit organization that encourages people to remember the missing.  Their 19-year-old daughter, Suzanne Lyall, a student at SUNY Albany, disappeared without a trace on March 2, 1998. Despite no resolution to the situation, the couple has remained undeterred. ”We have steadfastly held on to the hope that someday she will be returned to us,” Mary Lyall said. ”We’ll always hope our daughter and other missing children will come back home.” For years, the Lyalls have devoted themselves to finding ways to connect people whose lives have been changed by the disappearance of a loved one. They announced the establishment of the Center for HOPE (Healing Our Painful Emotions), to promote and provide support, education and healing for survivors. Funds have been generated to fund the nonprofit center, which is endorsed by state senate, the state assembly minority and the governor’s office. The Lyalls also have set up a National Remorial for Missing Persons, to be placed in the Capital District. The unusual name of the project was carefully chosen. ”The word ‘memorial,’ in memory of, sounded too final,” Mary Lyall said. ”We remember them every day, and every day we wait for the missing to return.  The memorial is constructed of glass blocks, each etched with the name of a missing person, illuminated by lights to convey a spirit of hope.

Pictured above is the now completed memorial.  The monument, the first of its kind in the US, will serve as a meeting place where families can come to reflect, remember, and begin a healing process. In addition, the structure will serve to increase public awareness about the magnitude of the missing person problem in New York State.  In order to promote the concept of a monument in NYS, the Lyalls met with the Director of Special Projects from the Governor’s Office, NYS Office of General Services Commissioner, and OGS Deputy Director. The idea was warmly accepted, and for the past four years they have been working with an architect and NYS OGS to develop a unique design and locate an appropriate site. NYS OGS was a moving force behind several other monuments, including the spectacular World War ll monument, unveiled at the Empire Plaza in May 2002.

The Remembrance stands on the southeast corner of Madison and South Swan Streets as part of the Empire State Plaza in Albany, NY. Reached by a curving concrete path, the Remembrance is composed of a 10 ft square granite base surmounted by a 20 ft tall stainless steel sculptural frame detailed with a machine-ground finish. Engraved on the polished face of the granite base is, “AS A SYMBOL OF OUR ETERNAL HOPE MAY THIS FLAME LIGHT THEIR WAY HOME.” The top of the sculpture supports an eternal flame, literally and figuratively providing the light home.

Groundbreaking was on Missing Persons Day, Thursday, April 6, 2006 .

On Tuesday October 3, 2006 an evening candlelight ceremony was held to dedicate the Remembrance



candle2 Through the Center for HOPE, the Lyalls also plan to offer referrals and advocacy services, establish an online support group, expedite the development of a national, uniform database for all missing persons and sponsor professionally run seminars for survivors. Through the work of the Lyalls and about six other volunteers, profound changes have been initiated in local and statewide measures regulating missing persons. The New York State Campus Safety Act and the Assault and Abduction Free School Zone bills were passed; a computerized missing person alert system was set up to relay information to booths and rest stops on the NYS Thruway; and April 6, 2002 will be the first Missing Persons’ Day, authorized by the governor.  Thanks to the Lyalls’ work, all New York tax forms will now include a pull-out section containing photos of missing persons, along with a letter mentioning the Center for HOPE. This alone will reach 3.5 million people.  Now, the Lyalls are asking everyone in the local community to support the Center for Hope. ”Whenever people stop to think about it, they share our feelings, and I still have people in grocery stores come up to give me a hug,” Mary Lyall said. ”This project helps us to move forward, because if we just sat here and dwelled on our situation, we’d be stuck, and that doesn’t help anyone. We can do better than that.”  Donations to the Center for HOPE can be sent to 278 Rowland St., Ballston Spa, NY 12020.


Long-range Goals Include

  • Educate all segments of the community in both awareness and prevention strategies
  • Review and evaluate legislation
  • Assist families by providing information, guidance, referrals, and advocacy services
  • Support the efforts of established agencies (local and national)
  • Encourage replication of the HOPE model in the form of local chapters
  • Serve as a coalition for organizations and individuals
  • Establish a companion hotline/online support group
  • Expedite the development of a National uniform database for all missing persons

The Center for Hope, Inc. is a not for profit organization with the mission of providing resources to educate, assist and support families and friends to cope with the ambiguous disappearance of a loved one.

The primary goals of HOPE is to promote and provide support, education and healing for survivors by sponsoring professionally run seminars including an annual ceremony on Missing Person’s Day.


The Playing Card Program:  Missing Persons, Unsolved Homicide Victims and Fugitives from Justice.  A Partnership with DA Murphy and the Lyalls

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Effective Playing Cards, which has partnered with the Lyalls and the DA have this message:

“Our Crime Stoppers, Law Enforcement and Prison playing cards are custom designed cards unlike any other personalized playing card produced. Each card in the deck portrays another unique profile. These custom playing cards are providing new leads for Cold Case Files, Unsolved Homicides and Missing Persons in every area they are distributed. The remarkable excitement generated by our prison playing cards will also bring incredible media coverage and exposure to your specific program, unit or business”.

Effective Playing Cards produced the first custom printed Unsolved Homicide cards with Heartland Crime Stoppers of Polk County, FL. Almost immediately after distributing these unique poker cards to the 2500 jail inmate population of Polk County, Florida, fresh leads into cold cases appeared. Special Agent Tommy Ray of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Cold Case Assessment Team stated, “It is like interviewing all 2500 inmates about 52 different homicides all at the same time!”

“We have produced hundreds of thousands of custom card decks for many Crime Stopper units throughout Florida and Texas. With the support of Crime Stoppers throughout Florida, we are now producing a statewide-customized poker card deck. This deck features unsolved homicides from across the State. Each inmate in the Florida Prison System will receive one of the 100,000 decks printed. We are in the process of compiling a similar deck for the State of Texas, and hope to expand this program throughout the United States.

We formed Effective Playing Cards, and our sister company, Effective Magazines at the request of Law Enforcement and Crime Stoppers units.


Custom Playing Cards

Custom playing cards are made precisely according to the Lyalls’ specifications. The Lyalls, as parents of a Ballston Spa woman who has been missing for nearly nine years, plan to create playing cards with pictures of missing people and victims of unsolved homicides from around the Capital Region.

The idea, Doug Lyall of Ballston Spa said Tuesday, is to get the playing cards into the hands of inmates at area county jails.

“They play a lot of cards, they have a lot of time on their hands,” Lyall, father of missing University at Albany student Suzanne Lyall said. “When they play cards, they will be looking at pictures of missing people, victims of homicides, and unidentified deceased. We hope to spark a memory or spark some conscience. People in prison talk, some of them brag. Some inmate might have heard something.”

People will be able to call in tips anonymously, Lyall said.

Suzanne Lyall disappeared after leaving her job at Crossgates Mall in Guilderland March 2, 1998. She’s known to have gotten on a CDTA bus back to the University campus and is thought to have gotten off the bus at Collins Circle at about 9:45 p.m. She hasn’t been seen since.

State Police are investigating the case as a homicide.

After Suzanne’s disappearance, her parents Doug and Mary Lyall became very active in helping other families searching for missing loved ones and getting laws passed to better deal with missing-persons cases.

Doug Lyall said he and Mary got the playing card idea from a friend who works in the prison system, but the Lyall’s aren’t the first to think of it. Heartland Crime Stoppers, a not-for-profit that covers three counties in Central Florida, has been doing this since Sept. of 2005, Wayne Cross, Heartland Crime Stoppers executive directors said by phone Tuesday.

“It kind of came from those playing cards they had for the Iraq War a few years ago when they were looking for Saddam and his henchmen,” Cross said. “It’s our program and we’re very proud of it.”

Heartland Crime Stoppers is on its third deck of cards and has solved four homicide cases, Cross said.”We have four more that are in various stages of being presented to grand juries down here,” he said. Heartland distributes cards to 2,400 inmates a month, he said. There are similar programs in nine other parts of Florida, four places in Texas and one is just starting in San Diego. Cross said he hopes to start distributing the cards in Florida’s state prisons.

Doug Lyall said the organization he and Mary have founded, the Center for Hope, can finance the first run of cards: 7,200 52-card decks for $1.75 a deck. Besides meeting with Cross in Florida last week, the Lyalls have enlisted the help of the Saratoga County District Attorney’s office, and they’ve sent letters to area police agencies looking for cases to profile on the cards.

Lyall said he won’t include a missing person without that family’s permission.

Saratoga Springs police are going through their files and hope to get at least one case, the 1980 killing of Sheila Shepard, included in the deck, Police Chief Edward Moore said.

“1980 isn’t too long to solve a homicide,” Moore said. “This case is something we still look at, something we still work on.”

Shepard, then 22, was found tied loosely to her own bed, gagged with her own blouse and stabbed with a steak knife in her Church Street apartment.

Ballston Spa Police Officer Dave Bush said he wants a photo of Douglas Philips included. Philips, 52, of Milton Avenue in the village, has been missing since Sept. 23. Police know that someone used his ATM card Oct. 10 in the village, though, and fear foul play.

Col. Richard Emery, the administrator at Saratoga County Jail said inmates there buy cards through the commissary and every jail in the state basically uses one of two commissary suppliers. All the Lyalls have to do is hook up with those firms, he said.

He would have no problem distributing cards like the ones the Lyalls want to distribute, he said.

Anyone interested in the program is asked to call the Center for Hope at 884-8671 or through

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