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Bruce and Denise Morcombe say they have two lives - the one before Daniel, and the one after.

On December 7, 2003, Denise and Bruce Morcombe’s life changed forever.

The couple’s 13-year-old son, Daniel Morcombe, was on his way to buy Christmas presents for his family, when he vanished from a bus stop on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

After failing to return home, Daniel’s disappearance sparked the biggest manhunt in Queensland’s history.

It was a manhunt which would span several years, with Daniel’s young face often appearing on the news around Australia.

Finally, after a tireless campaign to find their son, including a coronial inquest into the disappearance, police took Brett Peter Cowan into custody on August 13, 2011.

After Daniel’s remains were found, Cowan was charged with the 13-year-old’s murder and sentenced to life in prison.

One year on, 2000 people attended Daniel’s funeral at Siena Catholic College on December 7, 2012 – the ninth anniversary of his disappearance.

In the years after Daniel disappeared, Denise and Bruce, along with their sons Dean and Bradley, Daniel’s twin brother, established The Daniel Morcombe Foundation in an effort to educate children about their personal safety, with the goal of preventing another family ever having to endure what they have.

 

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This month, the foundation is celebrating its 15th anniversary.

Denise and Bruce first established the foundation in 2005, around 18 months after Daniel disappeared.

“We sold our business that we had – we were running Jim’s Trees at the time – and we sold that so we could focus on the foundation,” Denise told Mamamia.

“We always say now that we’ve got two lives – one before Daniel and one after Daniel.”

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At first, the foundation was established for a number of objectives – including continuing the search for Daniel.

“In the first 12 months that Daniel was missing, we had so many people that wanted to help us. We had people putting up flyers, we had people fundraising to purchase flyers. We just wanted to pay people back,” Denise said.

“Around 12 months after Daniel went missing, I turned to Bruce and said, ‘We need to try to set up some sort of foundation or charity to help other children’,” she recalled.

“We had two main objectives – we wanted to educate children on child safety and abduction, and we also wanted to assist young victims of crime that may have been sexually or physically abused, or had a family member murdered.”

In the years that followed, the foundation has been able to assist and educate thousands of kids across Australia, with the Daniel Morcombe Foundation becoming one of Australia’s largest child safety organisations.

“I think it gave us a reason to get up each day, knowing that we were going into work and we were able to work on different projects to keep children safe,” Denise said.

“We’ve been able to provide things like singing lessons or a pushbike or a skateboard. Just little things to help kids get back to a normal [life] again.”

In February 2019, the foundation moved into its new home – Daniel House, located on the Sunshine Coast.

The house is home to the National Office of the Daniel Morcombe Foundation, as well as a counselling centre for young victims of crime.

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Over 16 years on from the disappearance of Daniel, Denise and her family still struggle with anniversaries and birthdays.

“Birthdays are really hard. But of course we’ve got Bradley, Daniel’s twin brother. We try to always have a cake or see him and celebrate with him. But it’s never going to be the same, because there’s always one missing,” she said.

“As for Daniel’s anniversary – for many years, we used to try to go away from the Sunshine Coast on that day. For many years, we couldn’t go and visit Daniel. Now, we often go and visit Daniel at the cemetery. It’s always a hard day. We do the best we can.”

In their downtime, Bruce and Denise are now doting grandparents to their grandson Winston, the son of Daniel’s twin Bradley.

“He’s just a beautiful little boy,” Denise said.

“We just love looking after him and we can’t wait until we can start taking him back to swimming lessons and spending more time with him.”

Feature Image: Supplied.

You can find out more about the Daniel Morcombe Foundation on their website, Facebook, or Instagram.

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