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Search and Rescue runs in the family for Jamie Lynn Marshall

In this week's edition of Helpers, Tiffy Thompson talks to a volunteer who is proud to help families when their loved ones are missing, even though sometimes the outcome isn't good
Jamie Lynn Marshall is a Sault Search and Rescue volunteer who coordinates Project Lifesaver. Photo supplied

When two young boys went missing in Garden River this past September, Jamie Lynn Marshall was one of many Sault Search and Rescue volunteers who showed up to find them.

“I was at the Dean Brody concert when I got the call on my pager,” she says. “When I saw that it was kids; I was like, OK I gotta go. Because if it was my kid, I’d want everybody out there looking.”

Marshall remembers the moment they were found: “I’m sure people down the highway could hear everybody cheering.”

Formed in 1958 by a group of concerned citizens, Sault Search and Rescue is a 100-per-cent volunteer-run organization, dependent completely upon community support. 

Beyond providing ground searches, the organization also encompasses a First Response team, Project Lifesaver and has solidified alliances with the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and Canadian Air Search and Rescue Association to help with searching and recovery.

The group relies on donations and fundraising efforts to keep their doors open and to purchase equipment, everything from trucks and ATVs to snowmobiles and medical toboggans. Additionally, they host fun activities for the community; including snowmachine rides for kids with disabilities, a haunted maze, and other public service events.

Jamie Lynn Marshall is following in her father’s footsteps; a long-time active member, Don Marshall is now president of Sault Search and Rescue. Jamie Lynn has been involved for several years; both in Ground Search and in fundraising efforts.

“In 2018 she helped with the 2nd Annual Haunted Maze and was a driving force to make our 60th Anniversary a success last November,” notes Dave Rowlinson, 1st Vice President at SSAR. “This year she got deeper involved in the Haunted Maze, making it the most successful event of the three years we have held it. In 2020, Jamie is planning the first Sault Search and Rescue fundraising banquet.

Marshall is trained in Ground Searches; and is in the process of completing her First Response training.

For searches; “there’s a lot of walking,” she says. “Most times our searches are in the middle of the night, in the worst weather you can imagine. You need to be comfortable in the bush, you need to know what to do if an animal comes out. You’re never alone, you’re always with someone. But we’re trained in maps and compass usage, we always have a radio on us. If we’re in an area with cell service, we always have our phones on if we need them. You need to be aware of your surroundings.” 

Marshall is also the coordinator for Project Lifesaver; a program designed to quickly locate those prone to wandering off; particularly those with Alzheimer’s or children with Autism.

“It’s a transmitter [bracelet] that we can pick up a signal from with our receivers,” says Marshall. “If someone wanders away, [we can determine] what direction they’re in. It cuts our search time in half.”

While the program has been in place for about a decade, it remains costly to implement; each bracelet costs $400. Marshall underlines how imperative the program is; “we currently have 70 people that have these bracelets,” she says. “We have so many kids involved with this. We need it here; especially with the surrounding bush we have.”

Marshall is proud to be doing this work; which isn’t always a walk in the park: “There are days when the pager goes off, and it’s pouring rain or -40,” she says. “But everybody there packs up and off we go. The weather doesn’t stop us.”

“When you’re searching for someone, it’s either a good outcome or a bad outcome,” she says.

“It’s hard,” she says, “when you find them and they’re deceased."

"But If it was my father out there missing, I’d want everyone out there looking. So if I’m out there looking, at least I’m helping that family; either with closure, or bringing their loved one home,” she says. “When you find them and they’re safe, it’s the best feeling in the world.”

Want to help? Donate to Sault Search and Rescue here. To get involved as a volunteer, visit SSAR’s website for training information, schedules and more.