Just two months after their daughter’s remains were found in Wyoming following a nationwide search, Gabby Petito’s family is pouring its energy into honoring her memory and helping others.
Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, and father and stepmother, Joe and Tara Petito, are forming The Gabby Petito Foundation “to address the needs of organizations that support locating missing persons and to provide aid to organizations that assist victims of domestic violence situations, through education, awareness, and prevention strategies,” according to its website.
“I think the foundation is a way of us grieving,” Schmidt told NBC affiliate WFLA of Tampa on Tuesday. “It’s about the changes that we can make. We can’t change the past, but we can change the future.”
“For me, it means preventing this from happening to someone else,” she said. “That’s what we’re trying to do here. And that’s justice, for me, it’s helping others.”
Gabby Petito and fiance Brian Laundrie were on a cross-country road trip, chronicling their travels on social media, before he returned to his parents’ home in North Port, Florida, on Sept. 1 without her, police said.
Her body was found Sept. 19 in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. Petito had been dead for at least three weeks, and her death was ruled a homicide by “manual strangulation,” the coroner said.
Laundrie was never charged in Petito’s death, but he was named a person of interest in her disappearance. Human remains confirmed to belong to Laundrie were found in Florida’s Carlton Reserve after more than a month of searching.
Petito’s family is calling for a nationwide alert system for people ages 18 to 64.
Currently, AMBER alerts display nationwide information about at-risk and missing children, while Silver alerts display information about at-risk seniors, Schmidt said.
“What about these people that are in between?” Schmidt asked during the WFLA conversation. “If a family member knows they’re missing, there’s got to be some kind of alert system so people start looking immediately.”
Joe Petito said the foundation is meeting with shelters, rescue teams and therapists with the goal of filling “the gaps and voids where we see fit.”
“I want to make sure Gabby’s looking down and saying, you know what, I’m proud,” he said.
Schmidt said one area of the Gabby Petito Foundation site will be a platform for people to share their stories.
“It can be anonymous, we just think that sharing your story makes people realize they’re not alone and it will help others,” she said.