WISE COUNTY, Va. - In 2002, the Wise County Sheriff's Department was the first agency in southwest Virginia to be part of Project Lifesaver. It's a program that uses bracelets to track people who are prone to wander like those with Alzheimer's or special needs.
Thirteen years later, the department is keeping track of ten children and two adults with autism and Down syndrome.
Seven-year-old Bailey Sanders has a mild form of autism. She's quiet, likes to hide and is prone to wander.
Once when Bailey was around four years old, she got out in the middle of the night.
"I'm a very light sleeper, but i did not hear her. Just went through the house and the doors were open," Bailey's Mom Jamie Sanders said.
Luckily that time, Bailey was just on the Sanders' back deck. But other times she's been close to busy roads and wooded areas, sometimes lost for almost an hour.
"That's our worst fear that she's going to get to the road and somebody is going to get her," Sanders said.
That's why Bailey wears a transmitter bracelet on her ankle. If she goes missing, the Wise County Sheriff's Department can type in the tracking number on her bracelet into a receiver.
"Within a two mile radius we can hear a pinging sound and that sound will lead us toward where the individual is located. So the louder the sound, the closer we're getting," Wise County Sergeant Teresa Meade said.
If police can't locate her on foot, they go into the State Police helicopter. From there, they can hear the pinging up to ten miles away.
Thursday, Bailey got a brand new transmitter. This one is waterproof, slimmer and has twice the battery life. It's giving her parents a piece of mind.
"It's probably the best check I have to write," Sanders said.
A transmitter and battery testers costs $300, but if a family can't afford it the department can pick up the cost.
If you would like to donate or join the program you can contact Sergeant Teresa Meade at the Wise County Sheriff's Department.
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