5k to benefit Project Lifesaver
Published: Friday, October 19, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 19, 2012 02:10
The Operation Jacob Five Year Reunion 5k Run & 2k Walk will take place Sunday at White Park in Morgantown to help create awareness and raise funds for a program that completely changed the Allen family’s lives.
Five years ago this month, Jacob Allen, 18, wandered away from his family during a hike in the Dolly Sods Wilderness. According to his mother, Karen, Jacob is autistic and has limited cognitive abilities, which prevented him from realizing he was lost. It wasn’t until after search and rescue teams found Jacob four days later that Karen discovered the program that would change her family’s lives forever.
Project Lifesaver is a program that helps find adults and children who have wandered off by using radio-frequency trackers to locate them.
According to director of media and communications for Project Lifesaver International Elizabeth Kappes, individuals enrolled in the program wear a small transmitter around their wrist or ankle that emits an individualized tracking signal.
If an enrolled person goes missing, the caregiver notifies the local Project Lifesaver agency, and the individual can be found using the frequency.
"There is no cure for these conditions, but safety is absolutely essential," Kappes said.
Project Lifesaver requires much less manpower and money than typical searches, which
often enlist multiple agencies, hundreds of officers, countless hours and thousands of dollars, according to Kappes.
"The speed of the program is also a great benefit," Kappes said. "Every minute lost increases the risk of a tragic outcome."
With Project Lifesaver and trained public safety agencies, an individual can be found within 30 minutes, which is 95 percent less time than the standard search.
In Project Lifesaver’s 2,583 rescues throughout the last 13 years, no serious injuries or fatalities have been reported. The program now has more than 1,200 participating agencies in 47 states in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Australia and three provinces in Canada.
Monongalia County has had the nonprofit program in place for about five years now.
Jacob and his family now use the Project Lifesaver program because, according to Allen, it gives her a peace of mind.
"The technology is perfect for West Virginia, or really anywhere – it’s very simple and uses a radio transmitter, which is a very old but simple technology," she said. "In West Virginia, you can’t get cell phone coverage or GPS in many places, and this works regardless of that."
According to Allen, though, the program is not publicized enough.
"We didn’t know about the program, and I have searched the Internet for years for something like this," Allen said. "That’s the thing – there’s just not enough publicity so that’s one of our goals."
Allen believes the recent death of Laurence Nichol, 79, who was lost in the Cheat Lake area last week as a result of Alzheimer’s, could have been prevented with the use of Project Lifesaver.
"Unfortunately, those people didn’t know about the program and they live right here in Morgantown," Allen said. "I mean, that’s how we found out about the program – during a search for our own son."
The funds raised from the first Operation Jacob Five Year Reunion 5k will go to the local Project Lifesaver program and the Mountaineer Area Rescue Group, which Allen believes is a great organization as well.
MARG helped greatly in Jacob’s search in 2007 and continues to help with searches in the area. The group is comprised of volunteers who meet once per month in Star City, and Allen believes it would be great for students to get involved.
She hopes, overall, the 5k will help create awareness for a program her family now depends on.
"More than the money, though, our goal is to educate people," Allen said.
Registration for the race begins at noon at the White Park Pavilion in Morgantown. The race will start at 2 p.m. with a picnic immediately following.
"We just want to have a reunion and gather as many people as we can who helped with the search, run or walk in the race and just anyone who wants to come," Allen said.
The 2k walk fee is $15, the 5k run fee is $25, and the student fee for either race is $15. Anyone less than 10 years old may participate for free.
To learn more about the Project Lifesaver program, visit www.projectlifesaver.org.
For more information about the Operation Jacob Five Year Reunion, visit the organization’s Facebook page.