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Stirred by Emotion, Parises Make a Difference

Zach and Alisha Parise donate $11,000 to the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

Parise on the Wetterling Story

Zach Parise on the Jacob Wetterling Story

Zach Parise discusses the story of Jacob Wetterling and the impact it's had on Parise's family

  • 01:51 •

Zach Parise's childhood was not unlike those of most kids raised in Minnesota in the late 1980s and early 90s. 

Of course, there was pond hockey with friends. There were sleepovers at a buddy's house. There were snow forts and bike rides. 

There was also the same conversation that almost all children of that era had with their parents about the dangers of talking to strangers.

While it was a lesson taught all around the country, it had a different meaning for those raised in Minnesota. The story of Jacob Wetterling, abducted near his home in St. Joseph in October of 1989, became the talk of dinner tables around the state for decades to come, especially for those that were kids around the time he went missing.

Parise was 5.

"It was scary at the time when something like that happens locally," Parise said. "As a kid, we all had the talks with our parents after it happened, and what's out there, what's in the real world, what to watch for, and be careful, and not to talk to strangers. I remember it was a scary time for kids and my friends. You just never know."

Word of Wetterling's disappearance spread fast. Nine years before the AMBER Alert was created, parents were sitting their kids down and telling them to stay away from adults they didn't know. 

It was an uneasy time to be both a child and a parent.

"You hear about something happening in other states not near us," Parise said. "But when it happens here in Minnesota, to one of us, you get a different feeling when it's local and when it happens to a Minnesota kid. You feel like it can happen anywhere."

Parise said he was stunned to learn the details surrounding the break in the Wetterling case, bringing back a rush of emotions he remembered feeling nearly 30 years ago as a child.

Wetterling's school photo, distributed to police, newspapers and television stations remains burned in the minds of adults now in their early-to-mid 30s, a generation now raising their own young families.

"Your views on it change when you have kids of your own," Parise said. "Something like that would be the worst thing ever to happen. You feel so terribly for the family, and what they went through and what they had to live with all these years. You can't imagine something like that happening to your own kids."


The emotions stirred inside Parise when he heard the details surrounding the disappearance, disturbing those who had followed the case for three decades and hoping for a miracle: that Wetterling would somehow, someway, end up safe and sound with his family.

When that didn't happen, Parise and his wife, Alisha, felt motivated to do something.

The couple pledged financial assistance to the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, which works to prevent all forms of child exploitation and maltreatment. Before Saturday's game against Winnipeg, Parise met with Wetterling's parents, resource center staff and survivor Jared Scheierl, who helped break open the Wetterling case.

At Xcel Energy Center, Parise handed Jacob's parents Patty and Jerry Wetterling an envelope containing a personal letter and a check. The amount: $11,000.

Wetterling wore No. 11 while playing on youth sports teams, including the soccer team coached by his father, Jerry. The love of the No. 11, shared by both Wetterling and Parise, also represents the 11 things people can do to nurture a culture of kindness and compassion.

The 11 traits include: Be fair, be kind, be understanding, be honest, be thankful, be a good sport, be a good friend, be joyful, be generous, be gentle with others and be positive.

In addition to the Parises' donation, the Wild will wear commemorative "For Jacob" helmet stickers with the No. 11 during its first three home games, starting Saturday night.


Parise said he is blessed, in the position he is in as a notable Minnesotan, to be able to help financially in this way.

"Happening to a local family, and as I grew up... everyone knows the story," Parise said. "It impacted all of our lives. To be able to help out the foundation, I love that chance and I feel fortunate to be able to."

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