Dustin Isaacs

On November 13th, Governor Matt Bevin invited Jackson County’s Zack Bryant, Vernon Johnson, Jamie Strong, and Lonnie Madden along with Madison County’s Wayne Adams, Jennifer Kermeen, Roy Johnson, Benny Alexander, and Cameron Allen – to a recognition ceremony to honor their incredible efforts in finding three year 3-year-old Eden Hines.

Tuesday morning brought near freezing temperatures and an ice-cold rain for much of the Bluegrass. The morning was not much unlike the morning of Monday, October 15th.

One day prior, on Sunday October 14th – a little after 12 pm in the afternoon – 3-year-old Eden was reported missing from her home on Red Lick Road in Berea, KY. A frantic search began for the little girl as hearts across the Commonwealth sank upon hearing the breaking news.

The search included departments and agencies from across the surrounding area and state who pulled together their power and resources to find little Eden. The search lasted throughout the evening on Sunday late into the night, when temperatures plummeted and a drizzle of rain filled the mountainside that separates Madison and Jackson Counties.

With many forced to postpone their search until morning due to the dangers presented by the weather, several individuals from various departments – including the Red Lick Volunteer Fire Department, Sand Gap Fire & Rescue, Jackson County Emergency Management, Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, Madison County Sheriff’s Department, the Kentucky State Police, and unidentified good Samaritans from the area and one individual from Louisville – remained on the scene searching the valley and mountainside for the little girl.

A boot-print located by local resident Benny Alexander prompted KSP Officer Michael Cameron Allen to compare the print to 3-year-old Eden’s twin sister. It was a clue that narrowed the search area to a mountaintop approximately 2 miles from the home from which Eden wondered away.

While a helicopter called to the scene scanned the mountainside, the remaining crew on the ground scoured the trails with flashlights in hand and prayers in their hearts in hopes of finally locating the girl.

At 4:22 am, Jackson County Sheriff Deputy Zack Bryant stopped on a trail. He describes hearing breathing, but at first thought it was a deer, or some other animal. Shining the light near his feet, he found little Eden asleep on a rock. Awakened, she was asking for her mother. The crew removed her from the mountainside and took her to the ER for a checkup. Though cold and scared, little Eden was healthy and safe. On Monday morning of October 15th, citizens across the Bluegrass awoke to the good news that prayers had been answered.

Earlier in the year I was honored to have nominated Chief Madden of the Sand Gap Volunteer Fire Department to the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels. The Kentucky Colonel is an honorary commission given by the Governor to individuals noted for their public service and their work for the advancement of Kentucky.

Chief Madden contacted me in the Governor’s Office of Constituent Services on the day of Eden’s rescue (After getting some much needed sleep of course) with the idea of having the Governor award these heroes with a Kentucky Colonel Commission. I thought it was a wonderful idea and is certainly most deserved. However, it did not quite feel like enough given the magnitude of what they done.

Using the little influence I have been blessed with, I immediately inquired to the Governor’s Scheduling Office about the possibility of the Governor personally recognizing this group. They placed it on the agenda to discuss with the Governor at their next meeting, and I was thrilled to learn that Governor Bevin did not hesitate in placing the recognition on his schedule.

On Tuesday morning, the Governor spoke with this group and expressed his appreciation for not only their heroics in finding Eden Hines; but also for the blessings they are daily in their community. “The truth is you deserve this recognition and so much more”, he said. “The sacrifices you make every day also deserve recognition and appreciation.”

“I don’t believe in coincidences,” the Governor said upon hearing Bryant’s description of the events that played out in the early morning of October 15th. “This story could have ended very differently were it not for you. What each of you done was truly amazing and miraculous”. Wayne Adams, Chief of the Red Lick Volunteer Fire Department reiterated the message that many others aided in helping located little Eden. “It was a team effort from a multitude of people”, added Bryant.

Governor Bevin then presented everyone with his or her Kentucky Colonel certificate and stood for a photograph with each individual, and then as a group.

I am a firm believer that God works his miracles through the angels that he has placed among us. It was a beautiful sight to see heroes from my hometown and from Richmond and Berea standing in the State Reception room of the State Capitol alongside our Governor.

I am grateful for the local Jackson County newspapers, Tom Latek with ‘Kentucky Today’, as well as Marisa Hempel and WBON TV for giving this story the attention it deserves. I was disappointed that – though invited – some major outlets in the state felt it unnecessary to attend. We are blessed to have these wonderful people serving our communities. I encourage you to offer a ‘thank you’ at every opportunity and to shine a light of recognition on the positive stories happening within your community.

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