Tammie Griffin knows all too well the anguish a family feels when a loved one goes missing.
Two years ago, her nephew, 19-year-old Armstrong Atlantic State University student Bryce Tarter, disappeared after dropping off friends at their dormitory on campus. His disappearance prompted an outpouring of volunteers to help in searches for three months before Tarter’s body was found in his pickup truck in a creek near the AASU campus.
One of those volunteers was family friend Pauline Morgan, who became so dedicated to the cause of missing persons that she began organizing annual fundraisers for Effingham County’s Project Lifesaver program, for which Griffin volunteered to help.
“Between the good cause and Pauline being who she is, I wanted to volunteer and help her out and be there for her, like she was for our family,” Griffin said.
Griffin volunteered to run the yard sale, one of many fundraising activities Saturday at the Effingham Recreation Department gym. Others included a silent auction, bake sale, dunk tank and, for the kids, a water slide and inflatable bounce houses.
The day of family fun benefitted the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office’s Project Lifesaver program, a state-of-the-art electronic tracking system to locate adults and children who wander due to Alzheimer’s, autism, Down syndrome, dementia and other conditions.
“It just means a lot to me to make sure nobody walks off and can’t be found,” Morgan said.
Project Lifesaver provides personalized wristbands to Alzheimer’s patients and others who need them. The wristbands emit a tracking signal and, if someone with a wristband wanders off, caregivers can call 911 to alert trained search teams to be brought in.
“It could mean life or death,” said Ramsey Mannon, crime prevention officer for the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office. “The faster we can get to them, the better chance there is for recovery.”
Organizers said the fundraiser brought in $3,524, nearly enough to purchase 12 of the bracelets that cost $300 apiece. Everything for the day’s activities – from the yard sale items to the dunk tank to the shaved-ice machine – was donated, so all the money raised went directly to Project Lifesaver.
“Every cent that’s donated goes to somebody who could have their life saved by it,” Griffin said.
Pointing to the yard sale patrons, Morgan said, “Each community member, if they spend five dollars, it doesn’t take long to build up.”
For more information about Project Lifesaver, call the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office at 754-3449.