A few months later, Jim’s father needed to run a quick errand, as he had many times without issue. When he returned, Johanna was nowhere to be found. It was determined that law enforcement should be called in. The local community response was overwhelming. Tragically, after days of scouring the immediate area in frigid temperatures, emergency responders found Johanna’s body less than a mile from home.
This tragedy has shaken not only the Kirkwood family, but also law enforcement, emergency responders and the local community. Her son Jim is a friend of Julie Crowley’s, founder of the fundraising event - 'An Evening to Remember,' a Gala to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s Association of Central New York.
Crowley owns and operates the Ithaca Coffee Company & Triphammer Wines & Spirits. She started 'An Evening to Remember' in 2007 as a way to honor her mother, Patricia Crowley, who had been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and died from the disease last June. Jim immediately put his energy into this year’s event, to be held on November 28, at the Clarion Hotel. Jim and Julie discussed how they could earmark a portion of the Gala funds to honor his Mom, and prevent this tragedy from recurring.
Shortly after Jim joined the committee, he was introduced to a program called Project Lifesaver International (PLI). Project Lifesaver’s mission is to provide timely response to save lives and reduce potential injury for adults and children who wander due to Alzheimer’s, autism, and other related conditions or disorders. A bracelet can be worn on the wrist or ankle that emits a signal to be tracked should the person wearing it go missing. PLI works hand in hand with trained public safety agencies to dispatch an emergency team to that area. This cuts the search time from days to minutes and inevitably saves lives. In fact, based on statistics found on their website, they have found over 2,500 people. The average amount of time it takes to find someone participating in the PLI program is 30 minutes.
The Tompkins County Sheriff’s department wanted to implement Project Lifesaver in our community, but due ongoing county budget cuts, they have been unable to secure funding to initiate the program. Jim initiated contact with the Sheriff’s department, which was eager to manage the program, and worked out details with PLI to bring this program to Tompkins County. This year, a portion of the funds raised at 'An Evening to Remember' on November 28th will be used to initiate Project Lifesaver in Tompkins County.
What Jim and Julie have done to honor their mothers is something to be commended. This community should never again have to face a loss such as Jim’s family did on that cold March day. Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease, for the patient and their loved ones. There really are people ready and willing to make a difference in their communities and they are living and working right here in Lansing and Tompkins County.