LEONARDTOWN, Md. – On September 25, 2021, Erin Nicole Bean, a three-year-old who was undiagnosed autistic, wandered away from her home through a neighboring yard and fell into the Patuxent River. Unfortunately, Erin tragically passed away that day.
Cara Bean, Erin’s mother, has since then been on a mission to educate and empower families to protect children from further tragedies in Southern Maryland.
Erin’s Star, a non-profit organization that was created by Cara and a few others, offers free GPS tracking devices for children on the autism spectrum to families in Southern Maryland, including those who have not yet received a diagnosis like Erin.
Erin’s Star also believes all children, not just those with autism, should have the opportunity to learn Infant Swimming Resource (ISR). ISR is a combination of self-rescue swimming techniques in the event that children fall into water unattended.
In the future, Erin’s Star would love to provide scholarships for children to learn these skills, but first, more ISR instructors are needed in the area. Currently, there is only one ISR instructor in the entirety of Southern Maryland.
To help the situation, Erin’s Star is providing tuition assistance for new ISR instructor training.
Interest in this type of life-saving training is coming off the heels of another tragedy that recently hit the Southern Maryland area.
On April 15, 2023, 10-year-old Maddelynn Taylor Wallace, an autistic child who was nonverbal, unfortunately passed away after wandering off into a nearby 25-foot deep, water-filled quarry.
This situation was very similar to the one involving Erin Bean.
According to POAC Autism Services, Columbia University, and the National Autism Association, drowning is the number one cause of death for autistic children aged 14 and under.
“Losing my daughter brought me to my knees. I was devastated that I didn’t know the risks of danger associated with a pending autism diagnosis,” Cara Bean told TheBayNet.com. “I had no idea that drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1 to 4. Or that autistic children are 160 times more likely to drown. Together, through Erin’s Star, we are bridging the communication gap for autism families and changing the rhetoric for water safety.”
Since Erin’s passing, both of her brothers have completed ISR training. However, Cara’s older son was completely traumatized and afraid that he would drown even in shallow water where he could touch the bottom. It was a long process, but both of the brothers made it through and completed the training.
Erin’s Star recently held a fundraiser at the Action Lounge and Billiards in Leonardtown on April 29. Approximately 200 people were in attendance, with a total of $11,344 raised. That included $1,120 donated in honor of Erin’s birthday two weeks prior to the event and approximately $1,000 in raffle ticket sales leading up to the event for a drawing held that day.
A portion of the proceeds will be used to purchase a GPS tracking device in memory of Madelynn Wallace.
This was Erin’s Star’s second year hosting the fundraiser, and they will continue to hold it annually in April for Autism Awareness month and Erin’s birthday.
Cara also told the story of where the nonprofit’s name came from.
“My daughter was verbal but not communicative, meaning she could talk but she did not express feelings or communicate her wants and needs,” said Cara. “She didn’t ask for help, she would pull me by the hand. She didn’t tell me she liked something she would just grab for more. She didn’t tell me her dislikes, she just refused. However she was able to recite her favorite nursery rhymes, quotes from movies or TV shows and label objects. Every night before bed she would look out her window and say Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. In the days after she passed, family members would sit outside with my oldest son, her older brother and find ‘Erin’s Star’.”
To learn more about Erin’s Star, and reach out for any of their lifesaving services, you can visit their website. You can also follow them on their very active Facebook page.
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