The 20-year-old had arrived in the country in spring 2002, when he enrolled in a semester abroad in Quito. His program ended in mid-July of that year, but David—a seasoned solo traveler—chose to remain in Ecuador for several weeks, traveling and volunteering. He intended to return to the United States in August, but he didn’t get off his plane in Chicago.
With authorities from both countries, Michael Byrd and Maggie Felker, of Madison, Wis., searched for their son for years, but they were unable to find him. To honor his memory, they threw themselves into the volunteer work David had started in Ecuador through a group called Kids of the Streets, which teaches street kids how to read.
In 2004, Byrd and Felker started tutoring in Quito. Five years ago, they started David’s Educational Opportunity Fund, a foundation that helps students in Quito with financial challenges obtain a college education. The foundation provides assistance with tuition, housing, transportation, and food. To date, it has helped six students graduate from college, while another 15 are seeking degrees.