It's been a year since Robert Wood Jr., the missing, mute boy with autism, was found alive after five days alone in the woods. Now, one sheriff's office is making a plea for a program that could have prevented the massive search. The Richmond Sheriff's office runs Project Lifesaver, a GPS bracelet tracking system for those who might wander. It needs your help to keep the program going.
That project costs the sheriff's office $500 a year for each person who has a GPS device. Right now, only seven families are secured with one. The public, however, can help expand the program and get a tax benefit in the process.
On the surface, Dijon McKiever looks and acts like any six year old boy. He likes music, sports, even school. And, Dijon loves his magic bracelet. His mother, Deirdre, tells him it always lets her know where he is. She explains this helps because her son tends to wander.
"If you go in the woods there's a wolf and a bear and a raccoon," Dijon described excitedly. "It's a dangerous one (adventure). It's the deep, dark woods. It's dangerous."
Dijon was diagnosed with autism around his third birthday. For the longest time Deirdre maintained a tight grip on his tiny hand.
"I worry a lot about him," she said. "Anyone would worry about a child that young anyway, but by him being autistic he's not really able to communicate."
In the last two months, a weight has been lifted. Dijon entered the Project Lifesaver program. Once a month, Major Jerry Baldwin changes the battery and band on his GPS bracelet.
"I really can't express it," Deirdre struggled. "It's changed my life."
She wishes other moms could feel the same relief. Right now, the money for Project Lifesaver comes out of Sheriff C.T. Woody's budget.
He is lobbying Richmond City Council for money.
"I can envision because there's such a big savings having this program that city council will put some money into the budget," Council President Kathy Graziano told us.
But in tight times, the sheriff is also looking for alternative funding.
He's hoping to persuade the public to sponsor a child. If that child or elderly person does not live in the same household, the sponsorship is a tax write-off and could ultimately save tax dollars.
"It saves lives," Woody said. "It saves the taxpayers the time that it takes for people to be out there looking and searching. So it's a win-win situation."
For more information, email Project Administrator Major Jerry Baldwin at Jerry.Baldwin@richmondgov.com or call him at (804) 646-4464.
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