TRAVERSE CITY (AP) – Trevor Vetort said he felt an urge to take a run, even though the weather was gloomy and it was supposed to be his day off.
As the 18-year-old college student headed down a pathway through thick, swampy woods near his home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, he heard what sounded like crying. Then he saw a 2-year-old boy sitting on the ground beside the trail, alone and frightened.
“I was just weirded out – what in the world is he doing out here?” Vetort said by phone Thursday.
The sobbing child held out his arms, repeatedly saying, “Mama, mama.” Vetort picked up him up and carried him about 1.5 miles to an office at J.W. Wells State Park.
The toddler was returned to his mother, who had been looking for him but hadn’t notified authorities, Menominee County Sheriff Kenny Marks said. He apparently had wandered about a mile from home.
“He was lost on a muddy trail in a rustic area of the forest,” Marks told the EagleHerald of Menominee, Mich., and Marinette, Wis., (http://bit.ly/uBVoMs ), which first reported the story Thursday. “It had to be scary.”
The child needed no medical treatment. But Marks said he’d been in a dangerous situation. Few people visit the park this time of year; not a single camper was registered Wednesday. Rangers don’t regularly patrol where the toddler turned up. Temperatures were in the mid-40s and rain had fallen that morning. The child wore a hat and boots but no coat.
Coyotes, wolves, bobcats and bears wander the forests and pastures of the central Upper Peninsula. Cougars occasionally are spotted. The child was less than a quarter-mile from the Lake Michigan shore.
“This area up here is fairly remote,” Marks told The Associated Press. “We have a lot of state forest and parklands. Even an adult can get lost in there and not be found for some time.”
It wasn’t immediately clear how long the boy had been missing, the sheriff said. His office and the Michigan Department of Human Services were investigating.
The boy’s mother is divorced and has two other young children, he said. Their house is in Cedar River, a small community about 75 miles north of Green Bay, Wis.
Vetort, who lives nearby, attends Northeast Wisconsin Technical College just across the state line in Marinette, Wis. He worked at the Wells park last summer.
His 7-mile running route Wednesday morning took him along a two-lane highway and through the woods, where he stumbled upon the lost child. The boy was unable to say more than a few words.
Carrying the boy in his arms, Vetort searched the immediate area, assuming his family must be nearby. But seeing no one, he headed for the campground office and found rangers in a nearby restroom building, closing up for the season. They called the sheriff’s department.
Marks lives in the Cedar River area and said he had a hunch about where the child might live. He sent a deputy to the home, where the mother and several other people were searching for the boy. Their house is a short walk from the trail.
“That boy was so fortunate that he was found – and that Trevor was the one who found him,” said Paula Hornick, Vetort’s mother. “I’m so proud of my son.”
For his part, Vetort said he’s convinced his spur-of-the-moment decision to go running was divinely inspired.
“God was looking out for (the child) in some way,” Vetort said. “He used me to get him home.”
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