News and Tribune

November 16, 2013

DODD: Project Lifesaver offers piece of mind

By LINDON DODD
Local columnist

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service to others.” — Mahatma Ghandi



Jim Stewart recalls when his now adult daughter was in elementary school, she was a fast runner. On occasion she would run from the classroom. “At Bridgepoint they had a Code Lindsey alert. They would lock all the doors!”

Jim and Patty Stewart have experienced all the joy and worry that comes with raising a special needs child. Lindsay is autistic and is now 21 years old. Recently Lindsay moved into a home with two other special needs adults. The homes are owned and run by Rauch Industries. Jim and Patty are still getting used to Lindsay living on her own. Even with the round-the-clock care provided for her the fears and concerns are still there. Lindsay could still find herself in big trouble if she took a mind to simply wander off on her own.

The couple does find some peace of mind thanks to a program that first drew Patty Stewart to join the Pilot Club of Jeffersonville. Project Lifesaver was initiated thanks to a grant first secured in 2004. The first grant was secured by the Clark County Sherriff’s Office and the program was first coordinated through then Capt. Brian Meyer. Currently if one of those wearing a bracelet is missing Detective Randy Burton of the Clark County Sherriff's Office will get a call to track down the transmitter signal and locate the missing person.

Pilot Club Secretary Joy Scott explained, “We now sponsor three adults and six children. I just lost one.”

The bracelets and the transmitters are provided to the families at no cost. They do have to buy a new battery every 30 days. Joy Scott travels around to insure there are fresh batteries for all of them except Lindsay. Jim and Patty take care of hers. Batteries have to be tested on a daily basis.

According to a Project Lifesaver brochure the bracelets and transmitters have been placed on people with such conditions as Alzheimer’s, dementia, autism, and Down syndrome. People with these conditions are usually at a high risk if they wander off and get lost.

Patty explained that even though Lindsay is an adult her decision-making and communication skills are that of a young child. “It's a tremendous amount of peace of mind. It’s not going to stop her from running in front of a car but we might find her before she gets to the traffic.”

Joy and Patty both want to get word out about the Project Lifesaver program and would love to sponsor more families. To do that would require more money. The club’s current budget for Project Lifesaver is about $500 per year. The Pilot Club also sponsors Safety Town and provides helmets free to kids who learn to safely ride their bicycles.

Programs sponsored by the Pilot Club are provided by fundraisers and donations. One of the annual fundraisers just wrapped up when they took orders for holiday pastries called Butter Braids. There are two Bunco tournaments every year and an annual Rib Dinner is held at the Jeffersonville K of C hall in September.

Even though the Pilot International organization was first founded in 1921 the local chapter will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014.

I recently received an e-mail from John Harstern who spent his last five years in philanthropy as director of the Clark Memorial Hospital Foundation. John talked about his career of working with all of the service organizations throughout our community. He addressed the trend of the younger generation living more in a virtual world and not joining service organizations that have always provided so much in time, services, and grant money to support needed services and activities in Southern Indiana. If the service organizations don’t continue to exist, many things now being provided won’t be available to add to the quality of life in communities such as ours.

For Patty told it was learning about the Project Lifesaver program being sponsored by the local Pilot Club that first brought her to join the service organization. She is currently the club’s president.

Patty and Joy would love to extend the opportunity for women of any age who would like to join the Pilot Club to contact them for more information. In addition anyone wishing to get more information regarding Project Lifesaver or to make a donation to support another family in need of the service can contact them by e-mail at pcofjeffersonville@gmail.com. or you can visit their Facebook page at Pilot Club of Jeffersonville. They are a 501 3 non-profit which makes donations to any projects and all sales above the values of the products they sell for fundraisers tax deductible.

Patty and Jim Stewart are like any loving parents. It is always hard to let your children leave the house to go off on their own into the world. In the case of Lindsay there is always the extra burden or worry. For children with special needs or adults with certain debilitating conditions, Project Lifesaver might be just what the name implies.

— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at lindon.dodd@hotmail.com