Too often we read about it or see it on the news. Another senior has gone missing. Wandered from home and now residents are asked to help find them.

When Mandy Thompson went missing from her Barrie home on a frigid Feb. 17 morning in 2017, the hope was the 72-year-old, who had dementia and a history of wandering, would soon be found and returned to the safety of her family. Her disappearance though, despite the best efforts of police and concerned residents to find her, would come to a tragic conclusion when Thompson’s body was discovered in March of this year at an Ore-Medonte golf course.

Inspired by the tragic loss of Thompson, a local community group formed Project Lifesaver Simcoe and helped bring a new tracking tool that will help local police in keeping Barrie’s most vulnerable citizens safe.

“Project Lifesaver is a tracking device that emits an FM signal from a transmitter worn on a bracelet,” explained Project Lifesaver Simcoe co-founder Kris Hughston, who was at Barrie City Hall on May 7 along with Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman and Barrie Police Chief Kimberley Greenwood to celebrate the official launch of the program. “Barrie Police use a receiver to locate the signal within the one-mile radius of the receiver. It can be attached to a moving vehicle, a drone or carried on foot. Although GPS is newer technology, the signal can be lost in a heavily wooded area, in a large concrete building or even an underground parking garage.”

The equipment has been used in a number of communities throughout the province and has been successful in reducing search times, in some cases, from hours to minutes.

“The cost to participate in Project Lifesaver is $500 for the first year and then $120 each year after to cover the cost of batteries and bracelets,” added Hughston.

Hughston Insurance Solutions and Senior Helpers, along with the Barrie Police, Georgian Bay Volunteer Search and Rescue and the Barrie Advance/ joined forces to help bring the tracking equipment to Barrie.

“We put a rough plan in place, got the board’s blessings, sat down with Mayor Lehman, Chief Greenwood and some of our team members on May 8, 2017,” said Hughston of the plan to bring Project Lifesaver Simcoe to fruition. “(We) raised over $32,000 in fundraising efforts to purchase our equipment, had one or two or maybe 30-odd more meetings and here we are today just one day shy of year from our first meeting at city hall.”

Barrie residents of any age are suitable for the program. Vulnerable people whom the program could help include those with Alzheimer’s Disease, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Acquired Brain Injury or citizens with a mental health condition. Caregivers of those vulnerable are tasked with daily battery testing, recording personal information and immediately sharing information in case their loved one wanders away.

“To start, we are focused on the Barrie Police’s Vulnerable Persons Registry,” Hughston said. “If you know a person who is known to wander, please encourage their caregivers to call us.”

Those wanting to get involved in Project Lifesaver Simcoe can contact Senior Helpers. The local business will sit down with participants and their caregivers to provide the bracelets and transmitters. Call 705-300-2424 to make an appointment.

Photo: On hand to help celebrate official launch of Project Lifesaver Simcoe was Barrie Police Chief Kimberley Greenwood, Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman, Doug and Cheryl Weber of Senior Helpers, Project Lifesaver Simcoe co-founder Lori Martin, Project Lifesaver Simcoe co-founder Kris Hughston, Barrie Police Staff Sgt. Gene Hettinga and Darren Buck of Georgian Bay Volunteer Search and Rescue. Patricia Dent photo

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