Worldwide Focus on Missing Girl

The search for Madeleine McCann — the 4-year-old girl who investigators say was abducted from her bed while her family vacationed in Portugal more than two weeks ago — kicked up to another notch this weekend.

At London's Wembley stadium on Saturday, a video appeal for information about Maddie was played to the tens of thousands of fans gathered for a soccer match. The message was sponsored by Europe's Football Association.

Today's videotape was the latest effort in what has been a worldwide media blitz. The Web site set up to help find her has had more than 75 million visitors from all over the world.

In Britain alone, there have been more than 7 million hits on BBC's online coverage of the little girl's disappearance.

Soccer superstar David Beckham has recorded a public service announcement. J.K. Rowling, author of the famed Harry Potter books, is now offering her own reward.

The case is getting attention in this country as well. Madeleine's face is on the cover of People magazine, and it's just this type of publicity campaign that some say will bring her home.

Ed Smart's daughter, Elizabeth, was kidnapped from her bedroom outside Salt Lake City in 2002. He says awareness of Maddie's case is what will be "critical" in finding her.

Smart launched his own very public campaign to help find his daughter, and says he believes that's what brought her home nine months after she was abducted. He remembers that the two people who saw her had both seen her on television.

Child advocates say that the way in which authorities and families search for missing children has gone through a complete metamorphosis in the last 20 years, and a welcomed one.

Tougher laws keep predators in prison longer, and disclosure laws help to notify parents of sex offenders in their neighborhoods. When it comes to searching, it's no longer just pictures on the side of a milk carton — amber alerts can get a child's image out to the public immediately.

"What used to take days or weeks 20 years ago, now takes minutes," said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

What remains the biggest challenge for child advocates seems to be getting this help to every family.

"The challenge is for thousands of searching families out there who are not getting this kind of attention, and what we're trying to do is to make sure that people around the world, certainly across America, see these pictures," Allen said .

While not everyone gets the kind of worldwide attention Maddie's case has received, advocates say that the same tools used in this worldwide search will become the model for other cases, too.

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