HOUSTON (FOX 26) - A Houston family has been anxiously awaiting their son, Austin Tice’s safe return home for the last seven years.
The freelance award-winning journalist was covering the war in Syria when he was taken hostage in August of 2012.
On Thursday night, restaurants across the country will help raise money and awareness to his campaign, #FreeAustinTice, during an event hosted by the National Press Club.
“At the very beginning, we thought we'd have him home by the end of the week. Maybe two weeks,” said his mother, Debra Tice.
Debra and Marc Tice first found out their then 30-year-old son, Austin, had been taken hostage while covering the Syrian civil war in August of 2012. But weeks soon turned into months, and eventually into years.
“Six years, eight months and three weeks. Marc and I have been raising awareness and going to DC, going to Beirut. I lived in Syria for three and a half months in 2014 looking for Austin,” Debra said.
Last April, the FBI announced up to a $1 million reward for information leading to the award-winning journalist's safe return. Just a few weeks ago, US government officials publicly said they believe the Houston native is alive.
“It was the first time a senior American official had said we believe Austin Tice is alive. He's still being held in Syria. Even though Debra and I have known that in our hearts, that he's waiting to come home,” Marc said.
“There's that mom part of me that says why did this take so long. Hopefully this is the last big push before he walks in the door,” Debra said.
On Thursday night, more than 70 restaurants across the country, and even some abroad will help pitch in on the campaign #FreeAustinTice.
10 percent of proceeds at any of the participating restaurants like Chris Shepherd's Georgia James, one fifth mediteranean and u-b preserv will help supplement the FBI’s reward fund and go directly back to helping Austin reintegrate upon his return.
“Freedom of the press is something that's really important and we need to honor. And also understanding that Austin's part of our family. He's a Houstonian so we gotta take care of our own,” Shepherd said.
Austin Tice is the oldest of seven siblings. The former Eagle Scout and U.S. Marine went to college at University of Houston when he was just 16-years-old, eventually transferring to Georgetown University in DC. He was enrolled in their law program when he went abroad to Syria to report.
For more information about Thursday's night out for Austin Tice hosted by the National Press Club—click here.