Project Lifesaver tracks missing boy, reunites him with family

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Nathan Saville is back home after a scary ordeal. He has autism, and ran away from his family’s home last Tuesday.

“He booked out of the door,” said Saville’s mother, Shaunta Sheppard. “My oldest boy caught him and got him back in the house, but by the time we went to close the front door he was out the back door, and we didn’t see which direction he went.”

Like most moms in this situation, Sheppard panicked.

“I was terrified,” said Sheppard. “I mean I don’t think there is a word to adequately describe not knowing where your child is, especially when you know they have no fear.”

Sheppard called police and they, along with the family, started searching.

“My friend got really involved and helped,” said Sheppard. “They loaded up all their kids and went in their vehicles looking for him.”

The Sheppards had something on their side. Nathan wears a Project Lifesaver wristband all the time that emits a special radio frequency to help Project Lifesavers, like Paul Ballance, find him if he’s lost.

“We have been trained that as we get closer to the client or closer to the transmitter, the signal gets louder,” Ballance explained.

Ballance found the boy scared and barefoot on the busy road of Hampton Boulevard.

“The good thing about the whole incident is from the time we arrived on the scene using Project Lifesaver technology, five minutes we found him,” said Ballance.

It’s a happy ending to a story that could have been far worse.

“When you have children with special needs you have a lot to worry about already so when you throw in the fact they are a runner, and most children who are runners don’t come home safely, it’s scary,” said Sheppard. “[At] least Project Lifesaver helps narrow down the time, and find him a lot faster.”

The Sheriff’s office says Norfolk leads the nation in Project Lifesaver searches. It is a free service provided by the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office.

Project Lifesaver is staffed by volunteers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The program relies on donations and grants for funding. If you would like to sign up in Norfolk, call 757-328-2485.

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