Illinois HB 1610 was signed into law on Wednesday, July 6th by Governor Pat Quinn. Named James’ Law, the law amends the Emergency Telephone Systems act to allow for bracelets which can be remotely activated upon alert from a missing person’s registered caregiver. The bill was a labor of love, sponsored by Illinois State Representative, Karen May, with significant contributions from Elmhurst Mayor Pete DiCianni and Illinois State Representative Patti Bellock.
Autism Speaks Chicagoland Chapter board member, Nancy O’Brien, approached Mayor DiCianni in 2007 after enduring a two-hour ordeal when her son, James, went missing. The law was named James’ Law in his honor and will be an additional measure to help ensure emergency personnel are able to respond quickly when someone needs assistance and can return them safely.
At the signing, Nancy shared her story:
Hello everyone, I’m James’ Mom, Nancy O’Brien
4 years ago, on a Saturday morning, we were having a typical Saturday morning. My husband, Jim, was doing some laundry and I was upstairs doing other chores. A few minutes turned into a nightmare.
My husband came upstairs and asked as he had asked a million times before, “Is he with you?” and I said, “No?” and we both immediately headed for the door. I was in flip flops and my husband grabbed his car keys…I started running and he started driving. As I ran down the street, I immediately called out to my neighbors and everyone dropped what they were doing. James was gone.
We are blessed to live on a street with neighbors who have become our best friends. And doubly blessed to live in a community that cares. As I rounded the corner, I ran into the convenience store–”Have you seen my son?”–people stopped and started looking….I ran into the fire station–”My son is lost!”–I started to run some more. I was stopped by police officers. “Go home Mrs. O’Brien. We need you home when we find him.”
Two hours and fourteen minutes. The longest two hours of our lives. I heard stories for days afterwards from friends who were gathered in a fast food restaurant when a paramedic came in yelling that a child was lost. A couple who stopped their garage sale, found a picture of James and photocopied it and started handing it out in downtown Elmhurst. My dear neighbor who went to Salt Creek and prayed he wouldn’t find James. The kids who drove their bikes up and down the Prairie Path and stopped everyone.
Just as the County Bloodhound dogs had started on their trek, a lovely Jewel employee, who happened to be a special ed major at Elmhurst College, spotted James in the DVD section with a bag of Chesse Puffs. She knew the he was special needs and that he shouldn’t be alone.
Two hours later, he was found.
Thank God for this neighborhood and for our neighbors and for our Mayor, who listened when I asked him afterwards that we find a GPS system to help find our kids.
You have given our family and many families of kids with autism and other disorders and adults with Alzheimer’s some peace today.
We did something good today. Thank you for being such good neighbors.