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Volunteer Makes a Difference for Autistic Boy

Volunteer Work Pays Off in Rescue of Autistic Boy

A UCR employee volunteers with the San Bernardino Mountain Search and Rescue Team. This time he found a lost child.

(September 16, 2011)

James Dixon was applauded as a hero at the fall picnic at UC Riverside for his volunteer work on a search and rescue team. Photo by Konrad Nagy.Enlarge

James Dixon was applauded as a hero at the fall picnic at UC Riverside for his volunteer work on a search and rescue team. Photo by Konrad Nagy.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( –- James Dixon, a groundskeeper, was the talk of the annual fall picnic at the University of California, Riverside today. He volunteers for the San Bernardino Mountain Search and Rescue Team and this week he was on the four-man team that found 8-year-old Joshua Robb in the wilderness near Lake Arrowhead.

First the team found a shirt that belonged to the boy, who is autistic and ran away from his school. “I found his tracks,” Dixon said. “We called it in on the radio and they said they were sending the dogs to search the area. But before the dogs could even get there, Joshua emerged from the brush about 10 feet away from the team. They were quickly able to get him some food and water and on his way back to the command center.

Dixon was introduced at today’s campus picnic by UCR Chancellor Timothy P. White and applauded as a hero by the staff and faculty of the campus. Dixon said afterward his contribution wasn’t any more than other members of his search and rescue team. Sometimes, he said, one team just gets lucky.

“What a miracle that was,” said another UCR employee, Marie Good, as she came over to congratulate Dixon for finding the boy. “It had rained so hard the night before.” A resident of Lake Arrowhead, she and her children participated in the search as well. She works in the dean’s office at UCR's College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. She said her younger kids tucked toys in their backpacks in case they were the ones who found Joshua. Her older son, 17-year-old son, Daniel Gaton, went with friends to search the forest for hours. “In Lake Arrowhead, we keep our eyes out for each other,” she said.

Dixon, 40, has worked at UCR for about four years and he has volunteered with the San Bernardino Mountain Search and Rescue Team for 18 months. He said he volunteers because he enjoys the hiking, rock climbing and rappelling that is required. And sometimes, as in this case, it really pays off.

Public service is deeply embedded in the culture of UCR. Washington Monthly named the campus 5th in the nation based on UCR’s benefits to society through research, the social mobility a degree provides to students, and the service provided to the regional community.

In addition, a related ranking by Newsweek/The Daily Beast named UC Riverside 10th in the nation among Most Service Oriented Universities. One central reason for the high rankings is the fact that UCR maintains a high degree of access for low-income students in combination with a higher-than-predicted graduation rate.

The university also has a SEARCH center that specializes in helping families touched by autism, a condition that can manifest itself in ways that make life for the child, parents and teachers very confusing. SEARCH stands for Support, Education, Advocacy, Resources, Community, Hope.


The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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