It's been one month since 16-year-old Ashley Lyon disappeared for nearly a week and was discovered three states away with a sex offender. After recovering in the hospital from several stab wounds she sustained during that trip, Ashley and her family are hoping to use her story for good.
Saturday, dozens took part in a poker run aimed at raising money for Ashley's medical expenses and awareness about her story. The teen and her parents attended, even riding along on motorcycles.
"She has a second chance that most people don't get. I think she's going utilize that second chance and do good things," said Michelle Lyon, Ashley's mother.
The run ended at Slugger's on Bloomingdale Avenue, where organizers set up booths so participants could check out information on protecting their children from sexual predators.
According to Ashley's parents, the teen was manipulated and lured away by Steven Myers, a sex offender living in their neighborhood. The 2 were eventually spotted at a truck stop outside Lafayette, Louisiana, and Myers led police on a 40-mile chase, allegedly stabbing Ashley, before he tried to take his own life.
He was arrested and is awaiting trial for charges in Louisiana and Florida.
Denise Nestor, a retired Pinellas County deputy, hopes Ashley's story is a warning to other parents that the same thing could easily happen to their children.
"They're children. It's very easy for a predator who wants to do that," said Nestor. "It's up to us as a community and parents to come together and go over on an ongoing basis with our children what they need to look for."
Nestor believes open communication between parent and child is essential.
"They can talk about certain things and say, 'Hey this why we don't like this person' or 'We see red flags and we need to check into them further,'" said Nestor.
Ashley's family is working together to bring the teen back to full health, but in the meantime, they want their experience to save others.
"People in the community need to be aware that these things happen," said Roger Lyon, Ashley's father. "By sharing this with the community, not only do we help Ashley heal but we get the awareness out about the safety of our children."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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