Raising awareness, funds for Project Lifesaver P.E.I.

Sally Cole scole@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on May 6, 2014

Volunteer Devon Herring, bottom left, tests the battery on Sophie McQuaid’s bracelet during a monthly checkup as her mother, Tammy McQuaid, president of Project Lifesaver P.E.I. and Ken Hall, president of the P.E.I. Ground Search and Rescue Association watch. McQuaid is raising awareness about this tracking device during the 2014 Tracy MacKenzie Walk/Run for Autism in Charlottetown on May 25.


Tammy McQuaid knows what it’s like to live in fear of her daughter disappearing into thin air.

That’s because Sophie, who has autism, is prone to wandering.

“In the early days, it was a constant worry for us. Whether it happened in a store or at a fun park, it left us with the feeling of panic and us thinking, ‘will we ever see her again?’” says the Crapaud resident.

McQuaid also knows the comfort of a bracelet now being worn by Sophie containing a one-ounce, battery-operated radio wrist transmitter that emits an automatic tracking signal 24-hours a day. So, even if the eight year old wanders away, she can be easily found, with assistance from the P.E.I. Ground Search and Rescue Association.

“It gives us huge peace of mind that a safeguard is there. And that if she were to wander that the best (people) the Island has to offer are going to go and look for her,” says McQuaid who is raising awareness and funds for Project Lifesaver P.E.I., during the 2014 Tracy MacKenzie Walk/Run for Autism next month.

Dollars raised through this event, taking place May 25 at the Confederation Centre of the Arts at 9 a.m., will provide similar equipment for others in similar situations.

“When someone with a cognitive disorder is gone for any amount of time, time is of the essence. Every minute lost increases their chances of a tragic outcome. Knowing that this (bracelet) is on her wrist and knowing that they will be able to find her a lot quicker is reassuring to us. And I know it would be the same to others, as well.

“Through Project Lifesaver, the average time for locating a client is 20 minutes,” says McQuaid, the organization’s president.

In spite of these positive statistics, parents of children with autism, as well as caregivers who have loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, don’t always consider the bracelet as an option.

“On P.E.I. two families are enrolled in the program. We’re hoping that with the walk/run, we’re hoping to get some awareness out there because that’s the biggest challenge now. Many people we talk to have never heard of them.”

The president of the P.E.I. Ground Search and Rescue Association hopes Prince Edward Islanders will listen to McQuaid’s story and support the fundraising campaign.

“Tammy has worked long and hard on this,” says Ken Hall, adding he knows the difference that this tracking device can make to a family.

“It’s a tremendous aid. It reduces the search time significantly. Using the equipment can take us right to that person. In contrast, we’ve done several searches for people who have wandered. And if they had had the equipment, we would have found them so much faster.”

In the program, clients registered with Project Lifesaver P.E.I. wear a personalized bracelet. When a person with a transmitter is reported missing, vehicle-mounted and hand-held antennae are used to locate the person.

“It has a 100 per cent success record. It reduces the stress in families who are anxious about their children who tend to wander,” says McQuaid, adding another challenge is dealing with misconceptions about this behaviour.

“In every instance where a child has gone missing there’s always a person that says, ‘Why weren’t you watching them?’ They don’t realize that it only takes a second for a child to take off. You could be tying your shoes. You could be answering the telephone. You could be in the bathroom for a second and the child is gone.”

With her daughter wearing the bracelet, there is also a better quality of life for her family.

“Because it’s available through 47 states, we can go travelling.”


If you are going

What: Tracy MacKenzie Walk/Run for Autism in support of Project Lifesaver P.E.I.

Where: Memorial Hall, Confederation Centre of the Arts.

When: Registration is 9 a.m.The 5 km walk/run starts at 10 a.m. (An alternate 3 km route is also available.)

Details: For pledge sheets and more information: Go to http://projectlifesaverpei.com.

History:The walk/run is named in honour of the late Tracy MacKenzie who played a pivotal role in starting Project Lifesaver P.E.I.