Charges laid against day care owner as Waylon continues his recovery

Charges have been laid against the owner of a home daycare in Petrolia where a 20-month-old boy from Brigden almost died.

Waylon Saunders, who has family in the Ridgetown area, was pulled from the icy waters of a backyard pool around 3 p.m. on January 24 at the home daycare he was attending on Juniper Crescent.

The Ontario Provincial Police Lambton Crime Unit, under the direction of the OPP Criminal Investigation Branch, charged the 50-year-old Petrolia woman with criminal negligence, causing bodily harm.

The woman was released from custody and is scheduled to appear at the Ontario Court of Justice in Sarnia on March 22.

Waylon is the son of Gillian Burnett and Garth Saunders, who has family in Ridgetown. He is the great-grandson of Rita Saunders, grandson of Cari Saunders and grand-nephew of Paul and Liana Gammage, all of Ridgetown.

The young toddler was believed to be underwater for approximately five minutes before he was noticed and pulled from the pool.

Firefighters and paramedics arrived and immediately performed CPR on Waylon before rushing him to the Petrolia hospital, where the Emergency Room team took turns performing compressions for over three hours. Thanks to the work of the ER staff, Waylon regained a heartbeat. He was transferred to Victoria Hospital, where he was put on a ventilator and placed into a medically induced coma.

He was given a 10 percent chance of survival when he arrived in London.

Waylon began breathing on his own about five days later and returned to his Brigden home the following week.

“He’s doing really well. He’s moving and getting around a little better every day,” said Waylon’s mother, Gillian.

But, she added, there are still many unknowns about his immediate and long-range health as a result of the brain trauma of being without oxygen for such an extended period.

Waylon remains on medication and undergoes therapy as doctors monitor his sight, hearing, speech and mobility.

“He still has a long way to go. We don’t know what the future holds,” Gillian said.

Gillian, Garth and their daughter Aberdeen are also undergoing counselling as they recover from the traumatic experience.

“The whole family has a long, long, long road ahead of us, but we’re thankful we have the Go Fund Me and fundraisers,” she said, as much of their expenses are out of pocket. “It’s really wonderful how the community has come together to help us, so our family doesn’t have to struggle the get the needs that we need.”

Waylon’s Go Fund Me account is still active and has raised $21,505 as of February 22.

Neighbours and friends hosted a Highland Kisses and Waylon Wishes fundraiser in early February in Brigden, where people could get their picture taken cuddling a baby calf for a donation to Waylon.

There are two fundraisers for Waylon scheduled in Lambton County in March.

Emilio’s A Million Chameleons (for Waylon), a family-friendly puppet musical, takes place at Victoria Hall on Saturday, March 11, with performances at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Seating is limited and can be reserved in advance by emailing (there will be a freewill cash donation at the door.)

Waylon’s Wish, a daylong entertainment featuring bands, door prizes, raffles and other fund-raising activities, takes place on Saturday, March 26, from noon-9 p.m. at Rustr Music Hall on London Road in Sarnia.

Michael Bennett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News