Dane Co. program helped find missing boy - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Dane Co. program helps find missing boy

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MAZOMANIE (WKOW) -- A Mazomanie family is relieved a Dane County program helped find their son who wandered away from home.

Joshua Satterstrom, 9, was playing outside recently when he disappeared. His dad, Richard, started looking for him but quickly realized Joshua was missing. He called 911 and Dane County Sheriff's Office deputies responded.

"Like any kid, as they grow, you gotta let those strings out a little bit and he's been doing great with that but for some reason he just wanted to start the walk without me," says Richard.

What's unique about this situation is the Satterstroms are signed up for a program called Caretrak. Participants wear a bracelet that emits a signal. If they go missing, deputies can bring out special equipment to track the signal.

Caretrak is designed for children with autism, like Joshua, and adults with Alzheimer's or other diseases that leave them confused and prone to wandering.

"It's such fine tuning that we can tell if somebody is up high in a tree or down low in a ditchline," says Deputy Leslie Fox, one of nine trained to use the equipment at the sheriff's office. "When we train, we have actually trained blindfolded before so it takes some fine tuning and you can really hone in on exactly where that person is."

About 45 people are on the program right now. It's been around about six years but Joshua's case is the first time the equipment has been used to rescue a missing person.

Deputy Josalyn Longley has known the Satterstroms for years now. She's the one who found Joshua about an hour and a half after he first went missing. She says the boy made it a good distance from his home and it was pretty cold out that day, so she was relieved to pick up a signal within minutes of setting up the equipment.

"I just said some familiar names to him, reminded him who I was and just went up and picked him up," Longley tells 27 News. "He was confused, he was scared, he didn't know where he was at, but he was definitely happy to go home."

Longley says the community also was out searching, which the Satterstroms certainly appreciated.

"We have no idea how many community members that is but we are just so grateful," says mom Vicki Satterstrom. "Words can't even express... if we could tell each and every one of them thank you... but we don't know who all it was."

Joshua was diagnosed with autism when he was about three and was pretty unpredictable, which is why the Satterstroms decided to sign him up for CareTrak. They're relieved they made that choice and he's safe at home.

Looking ahead, the Satterstroms aren't sure how long Joshua will need to stay on CareTrak, but are working to help him learn how to become independent. They've also taken security measures to make sure he can't get out of the home.

Anyone who lives in Dane County can sign up for CareTrak. Visit the Dane County Sheriff's Office website for more information.

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