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Community rejoices over toddler being found

It’s not too often that something happens in Madison County, and the general response is the same from everyone you talk to, and everyone you see.

“This is a miracle,” were the words out of the mouth of Madison County Sheriff David Lewis after three-year-old Joshua Childers was found alive and well, Wednesday afternoon, May 6, near the Iron Madison County line. Lewis’ remark was a sentiment echoed all over this community, as news of Joshua being found spread throughout the day, Wednesday.

Joshua, who was missing about 52 hours, was found behind the residence at 2857 D Highway in Iron County, about three miles from the Childers home at 4:05 p.m., Wednesday. According to Lewis, the boy got out of the back door of his home near the Madison-Iron County line, around 11:30 a.m., Monday, May 4.

Joshua was found by a volunteer searcher, Donnie Halpin. Halpin, a construction worker had been rained out from work on Wednesday. He heard additional assistance was needed to search for the missing three year old so he decided to help.

Halpin carried the toddler out of the woods to the home located on the property where they waited for police and EMS.

Halpin said he had seen some dogs “sniffin’ around” and when he walked up to where they were he “saw his (the toddler’s) butt stickin’ out.”

Halpin said that when he approached, he said “Hey bud,” and the boy sat up and he (Halpin) asked, “Do you wanna go home?” and the boy said, “Yeah.”

Lewis said Childers was found approximately three miles from his home. Joshua told family members he had been on a hike and was going to his grandmother’s home.

Lewis said the child was taken to Iron County Hospital in Pilot Knob to be checked out. Later he was transferred to Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Crystal City. He was released, Saturday from JRMC. Physician Steven Crawford said the boy had moderate hypothermia, but he said he didn’t anticipate any long term health effects.

Approximately 500 volunteers were at the makeshift staging area at the Blue Mountain Methodist Camp to search for the child Wednesday. Some of them walked more than a mile through mud just to reach the area because of limited parking. Volunteeers on horseback, and ATVs joined local police officers and local firefighters, the Missouri Highway Patrol, local air ambulance services, and K9 units from the Missouri Department of Corrections in Farmington. SMTS was shuttling volunteers from the staging site at Blue Mountain Methodist Church Camp to the search area.

Lewis said he appreciated the support of all of these volunteers, as well as the FBI, Water Patrol, the Madison County Health Department several other police departments, sheriff’s departments, and fire departments, the U.S. Forest Service, Black River Electric, Shawn Hornbeck Rescue, the Sikeston DPS Communication Center, Blue Mountain Methodist Church Camp, and all of the people who donated food, supplies, and their valuable time.

Lewis said the outpouring of support showed what a good community this is.

“Everyone was very generous,” Lewis said.

Representative Jo Ann Emerson’s office also released a statement reflecting some of the same sentiments as Lewis.

“In our part of the state, someone lends a hand to a neighbor in need every day, in every community,” Emerson’s statement read. “We have a few opportunities, however, to point to our selfless tradition of public service like the one we had last week.”

“The story of Joshua Childers, who was lost in the Mark Twain Forest for 52 hours, could have turned out much different from the happy reunion that warmed our hearts on Wednesday evening. From surrounding counties and as far away as St. Louis, Missourians left their homes and jobs to join the search effort. One man from Fredericktown, Donnie Halpin, found three-year-old Joshua, but it could have been any one of the hundreds of volunteers whose concern for the boy sparked them to act.”

“…I’m very proud of this effort and I thank God young Joshua is safely home again.”

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