Jarvis "Gene" Saunders

Port St. Lucie, FL

After 33 years as a captain of the Chesapeake, Virginia Police Department, I retired to fill a void – hoping to find a better way to address search-and-rescue operations for individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia. During my leadership in the department, I saw too many shortcomings and something needed to be done.

Jarvis SaundersWhen I received information about radio frequency wildlife tracking, I realized there is a better way to effectively locate loved ones who wander due to Alzheimer’s or dementia. I thought if they can use this to locate animals who get lost, why can’t we fit this into an education and training program for law enforcement and first responders to locate loved ones using communication techniques and tracking technology to tune into a wrist transmitter and bring them home safely. That was over 17 years ago.

Today, the Project Lifesaver program exists across the U.S. with over 1,400 members in 48 states, six provinces in Canada, and a program in Australia. It first began as a pilot in Virginia in 1998 and, in 1999, became a nonprofit organization. To date, there have been 3,051 safe returns of our missing – “bringing loved ones home.” The clientele at the start were mainly people with Alzheimer’s and dementia but, since 2000, includes autism, Down syndrome and other cognitive conditions characterized by a wandering or elopement behavior.

If it were not for the older workers who paved the way for us, we would not be here today to continue to learn and advance in our careers or pass the torch onto the next suitable candidate for when we leave our legacy behind.