App hopes to help find kids

Hero application designed to help parents find children who have wandered off

Langford parents Gillian and Patrick Novotny hope West Shore families sign up for the app created by Thomas Okuszko (back).

Pulling out of his Langford driveway, Patrick Novotny saw a frantic mother desperately searching for her toddler who had wandered away.

Novotny stepped in to help look for the boy. In a few minutes the youngster was found standing with another concerned adult who had found him, Novotny said. The boy was in the opposite direction than the mother was looking.

A few days before this incident Novotny was introduced to the Hero Network electronic application while attending a birthday party.

The father of four began to think how the app could have helped in the situation with the small boy.

Thomas Okuszko created the Hero Network, an app designed to help parents find children who have wandered away. In the case of the toddler near Novotny’s house, the mother could have sent out an alert via Hero Network and anyone with the app in the area would receive an alert and could help look for the little boy.

The app has been downloaded nearly 5,000 times worldwide since it launched July 26. It is free to download and costs parents about $4 to add a profile of their child. The profile includes physical details such as height and weight along with a head and full body photo. If a child is missing a parent can send out an alert notifying anyone on the Hero Network within a 10-kilometre radius.

“We don’t blink our eyes or turn our heads at a siren, but everyone checks a phone notification,”  Okuszko said.  “If you lost a child you’d be asking everyone to help.”

When a Hero Network member is alerted of a missing child it shows how far away they are from the parent. If they find the child, the app user is able to alert the parent via the program.

To date no alerts have been sent on the Hero Network, “thank God,” said Okuszko.

The Sooke resident said he  would like to see one in four homes using the app for it to be most effective. “Anyone can be a hero and you don’t need to be a parent to join,”  Okuszko said.

Having a public alert of a missing child may have some parents concerned about the app in the hands of child predators.  Okuszko admits he cannot control who downloads the program, but expects there will be more “good” people looking for the child. “There are more eyes in the sky,” Okuszko said.


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