Five Lessons Robert Taught Our Community

The Richmond area experienced a miracle last week.  When Robert Wood, Jr. went missing in the Hanover County woods Sunday evening, the community sat on pins and needles until he was recovered safely on Friday, September 28th.  Here are some lessons that we learned as a community in the past week

Our community is filled with strong, effective first responders.  Within an hour of the report that Robert was missing, the Hanover County Sheriff’s department was activated in full search and rescue mode.  Over the next six days, police, EMTs, and other trained rescuers mobilized efficiently and effectively over air, land, and water to cover a lot of ground in finding Robert.  At every press conference, Captain Trice greeted the public with a calm, matter-of-fact demeanor that never faltered in its positive outlook for Robert’s safe return.  People sometimes talk cynically of the ineffective and inefficient operation of our government and its services. This was a shining example of efficiency in action and our tax dollars at work.

Our community is full of generosity. Once the call had been given for volunteers, people showed up in droves.  Thousands of volunteers worked in challenging conditions, searching for Robert, providing aid to the searchers, and keeping things organized at the search headquarters. Many local businesses and churches also supplied meals, supplies, and lodging for the volunteers. Many more individuals provided spiritual comfort with their positive thoughts and prayers for the family. There was a need and the community opened its arms.

Individuals with autism have unique needs. At first, many people questioned how a child could so easily be separated from his parents, even questioning the parenting skills of Robert’s father. As we have learned through information shared in the past week, one of the hallmark behaviors of individuals on the autism spectrum can be darting or “eloping” without regard for safety.  While this can be a challenge, parents of individuals with autism must live in the real world. Compassion and support from the community is more effective and more helpful than judgment.

There are supports in place to help prevent future issues like this. Project Lifesaver

Project Lifesaveris a national program designed specifically to help individuals with cognitive or behavioral challenges who may wander or run.  Although not available in every community, this nonprofit program provides a tracking device, usually worn on the arm or leg, that can help locate someone who might have wandered such as an individual with autism,dementia, or down syndrome.  The program has a high success rate but not enough people are aware of its availability.  It is incidents like these that help shed new light and awareness on this program and will hopefully increase its availability in the community.

Everyone loves a happy ending. I don’t think there’s anything else that needs to be said about that.