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CLEVELAND (WJW) — It has been five years since Amanda Berry walked through the doors of Fox 8 for the very first time.

She accepted a job to host the station’s missing person segments, working with local police departments and highlighting cases all over northeast Ohio.  “I’m just excited to be able to help families who need it and give [the missing] more than just a name,” Amanda told Fox 8’s Todd Meany during her first week on the job.  “They have a face.  They have a family.  They have a sister or brother.  Just to make it more personal means the world.”

In February of 2017, Amanda got her first special assignment.  She sat down with fellow kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart.  Like Amanda, Smart spends her time using her story to help others.  

“I absolutely had days when I would rather die than keep going,” Smart told Amanda. That spawned a teary response from Amanda, who added, “I just wanted to say I felt the same way. I’m so happy I kept that hope.”

Amanda says meeting Smart was a turning point in her career, and it helped her find her own voice.  After that, Amanda was more determined than ever.

Each day Amanda features a different missing person from northeast Ohio, working with local detectives to make sure the most critical cases get coverage.

“Getting the publicity out there, making people aware, it’s what helps,” said Detective Kevin Callahan with the Cleveland police.  “Just like with anything else, the community’s help is the biggest thing as far as I’m concerned.”  Callahan has given Amanda many missing cases to cover and says he starts receiving tips from Fox 8 viewers the second a photo pops up on the screen.

“I’ve had the missing person themselves call me,” Callahan told Amanda.  “We’ve had people from the community store or the community rec center or whatever call and say, ‘hey that person you’re looking for has been in here.’  It’s a great help.”

Before long, local school districts started contacting Amanda, asking her to speak to kids about the dangers out there.  She shares her story in hopes of keeping others from ever having to go through something so horrific.

The school talks led Amanda to get one of the greatest gifts she’s ever received.  The students at Max S. Hayes High School offered to fix up her grandfather’s 1986 Monte Carlo.

Amanda’s “papaw” as she lovingly calls him, promised her the car when she was old enough to drive.  When Amanda went missing, he held on to the car so she could have it when she returned home safely. 

Papaw was still alive when Amanda returned home and handed over the keys.  Unfortunately, the car wasn’t in good condition.   When papaw passed away, Amanda vowed to get the car fixed up and drive it in his memory.  From the engine to the old paint job, the students of Max Hayes fixed everything and gave Amanda a piece of her papaw back.

In 2020, the U.S. Marshals took notice of Amanda’s missing person segments and asked her to be part of “Operation Safety Net,” which helped locate dozens of missing children across northeast Ohio.

“It’s what you do so well,” U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott told Amanda.  “Your heart, your body, your mind, and your soul are in this.  You give a voice to those that are powerless.  You used to be there.  You were powerless, but now you’re powerful.  And you make a difference for everyone out there who’s missing.”

The U.S. Marshals honored Amanda and Fox 8 for helping with “Operation Safety Net.”

Amanda says her favorite project was her half-hour special, “Northeast Ohio Heroes with Amanda Berry.”  With the help of the American Red Cross, Amanda got the chance to feature ordinary people who did extraordinary things.  Their stories inspired her to finally sit down with her own hero for the first time in six years, Charles Ramsey.

Ramsey lived on Seymour Avenue and heard Amanda’s cries for help the day she escaped.  He helped her bust through the door and call 911, leading to the rescue of Amanda and her daughter, along with Gina DeJesus and Lily-Rose Lee, formerly known as Michelle Knight.  

Amanda says her five years at Fox 8 News has exceeded her expectations, and she is so appreciative Fox 8 viewers helped her find her voice to make a difference.