Push for Project Lifesaver targets parents of children with autism

For the Mills family, they have a close connection to Project Lifesaver. Chris Mills runs the program in Morgan County. His son Nicholas is also part of the program in Decatur Township in Marion County. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Emergency responders hope to raise awareness after a tragedy involving a 5-year-old boy, who was described as nonverbal and severely autistic.

He was found dead in a retention pond.

24-Hour News 8 first told you about a program called Project Lifesaver after the July tragedy involving 8-year-old Shalom Lawson in Brownsburg and Saturday’s heartbreaking discovery of 5-year-old Andrew Khyang.

Advocates said the program could help track children and adults who have a tendency to wander off due to autism, Down syndrome and other cognitive disorders.

For the Mills family, they have a close connection to Project Lifesaver. Chris Mills runs the program in Morgan County. His son Nicholas is also part of the program in Decatur Township in southwest Marion County.

“Our son is on the program. He initially wasn’t on the program,” Mills said. “We never thought that he was one that, even though he was autistic, we never thought he would wander off.”

Mills said his son proved them wrong four years ago when he was 13 years old.

“We had actually been running the program for a little over a year, and he wasn’t a client because we just never seen that he was going to do that and then he wandered off in the middle of the night and actually drove off in the middle of the night,” he said.

Mills takes a proactive approach when talking to other people about Project Lifesaver, which is free in Morgan County.

“You know, you just never know, and that’s why we try to be a little bit more proactive, you know” he said. “If there’s a little slight chance that they might do it, let’s put a bracelet on them.”

The bracelet is a transmitter device that can be worn every day and even in the water on the wrist or on the ankle.

Emergency responders can tune into that unique frequency using a receiver and can pick up the signal.

Advocates of the program said it can help reduce the search time to find someone.

“It’s a tool for the families that … to be educated on … to know there is someone out there that can help them locate their child and bring them home safely,” said Billie Auberry, who is the coordinator for Project Lifesaver in Decatur Township.

Auberry said the program is also free in Decatur Township.

“What I always tell me clients when I sign them on the program, make sure their neighbor knows that they are on this program in case they see them getting out of the home where they cannot see them,” Auberry said.

Damar Services is also launching a fundraiser to raise $50,000 to help offset the cost of the device for fire departments in District 5, which includes the Indianapolis metropolitan area.

Click here if you would like to donate to the fundraiser.

Click here if you would like to check to see if there’s a Project Lifesaver in your county.