RICHLAND COUNTY, Ohio - A missing 8-year-old girl was safely returned to her family in record time thanks to a program that uses tracking technology in Richland County.
Eight-year-old Mary Kopina suffers from a seizure disorder and has learning disabilities, and according to her parents has recently started running away.
“One minute she can be in plain view,” said Lisa Bistline. "And then she’ll figure a way to escape.”
A few months ago, a counselor recommended enrolling Mary in the “Project Lifesaver” program; a non-profit 501C3 organization that helps outfit at risk people with personal transmitters that can be quickly located by law enforcement.
The waterproof device, which can only be removed with a key, looks like a bracelet and can be worn on the wrist or ankle, but is different from other GPS units because the program works directly with law enforcement.
Since 2007, it has helped the Richland County Sheriffs Department locate and rescue several people including a teenager with autism.
The Lions Club manages the funding for the program and deputies do the tracking in an emergency; like what happened Tuesday night with Mary.
The young girl took off riding a bicycle and was long gone before her parents realized it and called for help around 6:17 p.m.
Within 22 minutes, deputies tracked Mary who was only about a mile away from home.
Anthony Kopina collapsed in tears when he learned she hadn’t been abducted or been in an accident, “I was so happy my daughter was found.”
Now he and Mary’s mom are recommending that everyone check out the program.
Statistically, Project Lifesaver has helped locate countless people with conditions like Dementia, Alzheimers and Autism within 30 minutes, which is 95% faster than without it.
Mary’s parents have no doubt the personal monitor saved their daughter and for that they’re eternally grateful.
About 70 city and county agencies in Ohio have Project Lifesaver.