When Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes implemented Project Lifesaver in Liberty County, he did so knowing it would bring “peace of mind to local families in need.”
Project Lifesaver is a nationwide initiative that incorporates a tracking device, which looks like and is worn much like a wristwatch. The program is beneficial for families with children and adults who have traumatic head injuries, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, Down syndrome and dementia.
Earlier this year, six LCSO deputies were trained and certified in the program that mobilizes special teams should a special-needs youth or adult run away or wind up missing.
In April, Cabelle Robles and her son, Grayson, were the first family in the county to sign up for the program. Grayson currently wears the device on his ankle, and Robles said it has added an extra measure of security in their day-to-day activities.
“It has given us much more peace of mind, especially at this age where he is getting braver and braver to venture out … and not being able to communicate effectively with others,” she said.
Grayson, 11, suffers from autism and epilepsy but is otherwise a typical playful and active preteen. Robles said wearing the device has not stopped the youngster from enjoying the summer, especially when there’s an opportunity to cool off.
“He can go swimming,” she said. “It’s really water-resistant and because he wears it on his ankle, it’s out of sight, out of mind. And whenever we brought attention to it, we tell him how awesome it is that he has a cool ankle bracelet. He really likes it.”
On Monday, a second family registered their daughter with Project Lifesaver. They said it was exactly what they had been searching for.
Gonzalo Contador, his wife, Maggie, their 6-year-old daughter, Lillian, and 1-year-old son, Isaac, recently met with Edwards at the sheriff’s office, where Lillian was fitted with the device.
Much like Grayson, Lillian suffers from epilepsy and autism. Much like the Robles, the Contadors have been concerned for their child’s safety.
“We had a bad experience, two bad experiences. Once she ran away in Walmart, and that was a little nerve-wracking because I was deployed and Maggie was alone,” Gonzalo Contador said. “The second time happened while I was still deployed where she ran into the street … about 200 yards and one of our neighbors saw her running around and pointed out where she was, and we found her playing with a dog. We figured we could avoid those situations again.”
“We had been looking for something for a long time. We looked at medical bracelets and GPS and we didn’t find anything until we heard about this program,” Maggie Contador added.
The family learned about Project Lifesaver after a relative attended an autism support group last week in Richmond Hill. The information packet provided at the meeting included information about Project Lifesaver within Bryan County. The couple searched for information online, and they were thrilled to learn it was offered in Liberty County as well.
“We immediately went over and talked to Capt. Edwards, and he set it up so we can get it,” Maggie Contador said. “It’s 100 percent better. We always have her with us, but she is fast and she runs away, and she is at a new school this year that is an open campus, and we’ve been very concerned about if she gets away.”
She said the school is right off a busy road, which adds to her worries.
“Obviously they take a lot of preventative measures, but she is fast and she won’t respond to anybody if they call her,” Maggie Contador said. “And she won’t be able to tell anybody who she is or where she belongs. … This makes it 100 percent better.”
Edwards said the transmitting device constantly emits a radio frequency signal, which can be tracked regardless of where the person is located. Each device has its own frequency and tracking number.
During training operations, the average rescue time was around 30 minutes. If the family is out of town and reports a loved one missing, the information is routed to the national tracking system, and the nearest participating agency can be deployed to respond. There currently are more than 1,500 agencies participating.
Robles said her son has formed a bond with the deputies who routinely come out to check the device and change batteries.
“Especially when Mr. David comes out,” she said. “(Grayson) gets to know them and he forms a bond, and that way he won’t be afraid of police officers. So in the case that we have to use it, he won’t run from the police officer. He sees them more in a friendly manner.”
Edwards said anyone interested in signing up with Project Lifesaver should call him at 408-3106.
For more information, call Project Lifesaver at 1-877-580-5433 or go to www.projectlifesaver.org.