TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — It was nothing short of a miracle. A Tampa mother was missing for nearly a week before she was found alive during the height of the August heat wave.
Anu Awasthi’s husband told News Channel 8 he wants to help the group of retired law enforcement officers that saved her life.
“We are so glad that Nico found her, and the whole team found her right in the nick of time,” Vikas Awasthi said.
In a show of gratitude, Awasthi has set up a fundraiser in support of We Are the Essentials. His family will match up to $20,000 in donations.
Six days after Anu Awasthi vanished near a Walmart in Oldsmar, a detective from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office notified her husband that she had been found alive.
“That was the happiest phone call that I received,” Vikas Awasthi said.
Before getting in touch with Anu’s family, We Are the Essentials began searching for the missing mother.
“They are an organization that have skills that just about nobody else has,” Vikas Awasthi said.
Time was of the essence to find Anu because the temperatures that week in August were above 100 degrees.
“I heard a little bit of her whimpering,” We Are the Essentials co-founder Nico Tusconi said, describing what led him to locate the missing woman in a wooded area near the Walmart.
Made up of former Tampa Bay-area law enforcement members and military veterans, the organization formed two years ago during the search for Brian Laundrie while the Gabby Petito story captivated the country.
“I feel like we came very close to the area where Brian was at,” co-founder Billy Lane said.
To date, We Are the Essentials said it has rescued or recovered the remains of nearly 20 missing people in Florida.
“So for us to be able to locate [Anu] and to get her the help she needed immediately was nothing short of a miracle,” Lane said.
Now, Anu’s loved ones are focused on helping the next family in need.
“We need to do more to make sure that anybody who is faced with the same problem that I was is able to find them quickly,” Vikas Awasthi said.
Anu remains hospitalized. She has almost fully recovered physically, her husband said, but the healing from the six days of disappearance continues.
Vikas visits his wife every day. He said he is hopeful she’ll be able to leave the hospital soon.