In 2007, she met Jessyca Mullenberg, a girl from rural Wisconsin who, at age 13, escaped the former teacher who had held her captive for more than three months.
"I love Jessyca," Wetterling said. "She's, you know, got that survival skill. She made it. I wish that it had never happened. But she made it through a really horrific situation, and there are kids like that. And I just think they're our heroes."
For Wetterling, Jessyca Mullenberg embodies the possibility that even long-vanished children may still be alive.
"We can learn from this case that these kids can come home, and we know that kids have come home after six months, nine months, two years, four years, 11 years," she said.
In one of the most remarkable cases of its kind, Jaycee Dugard was reunited with her family after 18 years of captivity.
"When Jaycee was found, it was just this exclamation point to our statement," Wetterling said. "There are missing kids out there, it's our job to find them and she did it. She survived some really horrible things and she did it."
Jaycee was on the cover of People magazine, her smile amazingly similar to her smile as a child.
"She is beautiful and she looks so deep-down happy and that's a great starting point," Wetterling said. "And no matter what happened in between, nobody could take away those first 11 years and she drew energy from that, that unconditional love."
As for Wetterling's son Jacob, there are fewer leads each year. But the Wetterlings hang on. Since Jacob vanished they have not changed their phone number, or moved, in case he tries to contact them.
What gives her the ability to keep going and keep hoping?
"How can I not? How could I look Jacob in the eye?" she said. "If I believe that he's alive and some day he could come home, how could I just look him in the eye and say 'I wanted to believe, but you know, I got kind of tired.'"
This past weekend, Wetterling helped organize a concert at a nearby college. It was not a memorial, but a celebration of children, she said.
"I want [students] to walk away uplifted and feeling wonderful about the good people in the world, and the hope and the promise that children give to us and that we can return the gift to them," Wetterling said.
One of Jacob's favorite singers, Red Grammar, performed.
And Wetterling read from a book she's written for her three grandchildren.
Some of Jacob's old friends and classmates came. They are grown now, many with their own children.
"I think about him every day," Wetterling said. "I do. I just say a little prayer and try and send out some energy to let him know I'm still searching. ... I believe there's a possibility.
"My hope has broadened," she said. "You know often, I'll be shopping in a mall and people see me and they'll grab their other kids real close. It's very subtle but they, I represent something no parent wants to think about."
While the Wetterling family hasn't given up on Jacob, they also haven't given up on life. Trevor's got a career, a wife and a son named Jacob. They call him Jake.