Bless 'em all and thanks!

June 23, 2008 by barbara

barbara writes

(Please see UPDATE following this post.)

Keith Kennedy is alive!!!

I was schlogging through the net’s miasma of bad, badder, baddest news when I stumbled onto the story, here and here. Instant tears. You, too? More as I write this. It’s an amazing thing, really.

Keith Kennedy is a 25-year-old man who has autism. And this summer, like summers before, Keith was attending an overnight camp in Wisconsin that is geared to people with special needs. One week ago, for whatever reason, he wandered away from camp. May even have been running. His father says Keith loves to run. Not away from, but rather running for joy. A beautiful but nearly deadly thing this time.

Keith’s parents said he speaks only four words. They also said he would be unlikely to respond to the voices of the searchers, even if they called his name. Add to that the fact that he needed daily anti-rejection medication for a decade-old kidney transplant and the odds were stacked heavily against him. Please read on.

Hundreds of people converged on the area around the camp and a frantic search began. Continued all week long. The terrain was tough and the woods thick. Yesterday, authorities and family were approaching the terrible moment of having to scale down the search, of beginning the painful process of giving up.

But last night, Keith was found in an area that had been searched several times before. Tick-covered, dehydrated, scraped up some, but alive. Was he there all along? Does that really matter now? He was comforted and then transported by air ambulance for medical attention.

You may already know the details of this story, but Keith’s rescue was news to me this morning. Most of the remarks following the net stories are filled with the kind of celebratory support Keith’s parents must deeply appreciate. There are also a few deeply disturbing comments. The kind of thing I heard about my brother when his life was in the balance. Lawyers who told me that, egregious medical errors notwithstanding, because of his mental retardation, my brother’s life is deemed to have no value.


Tell Keith Kennedy’s parents and family that his life has no value. I imagine they would look flat-out astonished and no small amount offended. Tell that to the volunteer searchers who came from great distances to try to save Keith’s life. Tell that to the Wisconsin camp that offers community and recreation to its special campers. Tell that to the more famous Kennedy family, whose Camelot denizens included a woman with mental retardation. Tell that to the folks involved with Special Olympics.

Okay. I’m through.

Keith Kennedy is alive. Thank God for that!

Just learned that my brother Garry's semi-independent living instructor Michelle (the person who is largely responsible for his well-being) drove to Grantsburg on Saturday to help search for Keith Kennedy. It was her day off, and she says she just felt the need to lend a hand (eyes, feet, ears).

Garry and I are SO lucky to have Michelle in our lives. What a deeply caring woman she is.

I guess she thinks Keith and Garry's lives have value. Just sayin'.

Posted in


MLS (not verified) | June 23, 2008 - 1:44pm

I, too, was overjoyed to hear that Keith was found. I have a grand son who is very special; who happens to be autistic.
You and I realize what "special" means, Barb. Observing a child or adult with a disability achieve something he/she
has been struggling to do for weeks, perhaps months, is the warmest, most joyous moment one could ever experience.
I have learned much more from my grandson then he could ever learn from me. He's priceless!


Jean T (not verified) | June 25, 2008 - 10:14pm

Well, here is the deal. I know Garry and consider him a friend. I have seen him in some very tough times. And I find Garry good company and with a wonderful sense of humor and joy of life. He values his life; his family values his life; I value his life; his co-workers value his life. The "system" needs to wake up and get its values in a humane position. I boil rage inside when the system treats Garry and Keith dismissively.

And I said an internal hurrah when Keith was found. I can only imagine the tremendous joy of the resuers and his family.

Go Keith! Go Garry!

Jean T.