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Community rallies around Waylon

Published on

Cathy Dobson

All little Waylon Saunders wanted to do was play the drums Sunday as the bands set up for a fundraiser to help him and his family.

Waylon Saunders. (Cathy Dobson photo)

It’s been two months since the 23-month-old nearly died in a pool at an unlicensed Petrolia daycare and Waylon is mostly oblivious to the trauma, says his mom Gillian Burnett.

But the trauma that the near-drowning has caused his family is extensive and life will never be the same again, said Burnett.

“Waylon looks great although he still has trouble with his one leg,” she said. “But he has a lot of emotional breakdowns and sensory issues from what happened.

“He doesn’t understand it.”

Waylon has been called a miracle child after falling into an outdoor pool at his daycare Jan. 24.

Few details are available as the case is before the courts, but Burnett said her son had no heartbeat for two hours and doctors gave him a 10% chance of survival that day.

Gillian Burnett. (Cathy Dobson photo)

“I want Waylon’s story to be heard,” Saunders said Sunday at Rustr Music Hall where five local bands drew a big crowd and lots of donations in support of her little boy.

“I want people to know what happened, to think about pool safety and how they choose a daycare.”

Saunders is a single mom to Waylon and his three-year-old sister Aberdeen.

She lives in St. Clair Township and said she was on a wait list for two years for a licenced daycare. When no openings came up, she said she settled on an unlicensed daycare because she had to start earning income as a community health care worker.

Waylon fell into the pool two weeks after he started there.

“I want the province to get more licenced daycares,” Burnett said. “I took an unlicensed spot because I had to work. I thought it would be okay. I was told the children never went in the backyard.”

She doesn’t know if she’ll ever be able to trust anyone to watch Waylon again.

For now, she is collecting unemployment insurance and has no plans to go back to work.

The entire family is in counselling for post-traumatic stress and anxiety. Aberdeen witnessed her brother nearly drown and is getting therapy at St. Clair Child & Youth, Burnett said.

Waylon has weekly doctors’ appointments for his hearing, his vision, his speech, and with a neurologist.

“He’s (physically) good where he is but we don’t know about the future,” Burnett said. “He shouldn’t have survived.

“My gratitude is for the doctors but also for God. Without God, Waylon wouldn’t be here.”

Various fundraisers prior to Sunday and a GoFundMe campaign, raised about $30,000 to date to help with expenses.

From left: Petrolia Mayor Brad Loosely, Waylon’s mom Gillian Burnett, Waylon and Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley at Sunday’s fundraiser. (Cathy Dobson photo)

“We are so surprised,” Burnett said. “I didn’t think so many would help us out. Words can’t express how grateful I am.”

She said living expenses and the cost of keeping her car on the road are overwhelming at times.

The Journal will post the amount raised from Sunday’s Waylon’s Wish fundraiser at Rustr when it’s available.

Bands playing at Waylon’s Wish included Johnny Five, Rumble Fish, Gypsy Flats, Painkiller Jane and Big Shiny Toons.

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