The six-year-old who went missing for 22 hours in a remote area in Blount County has been discharged from the Blount Memorial Hospital, according to family.
Loved ones say Kaydon Leach is in good health and want to express their gratitude to the community and all the rescuers who helping bring him home.
“He’s a brave little boy,” Aaron Woods, Blount Count fireman, said.
His disappearance sparked a miles-long search in the Top of the World community, with a hundred first responders and volunteers working around the clock to find him.
Less than one after the child went missing, one rescuer did.
“I had just looked to my right. I had come around and was going to my left and I heard “hey.” I looked back around and did a double take and thought oh my goodness, there’s the little boy,” Woods said.
Blount County fireman Aarom Woods spotted the child in the woods, about a half mile from his home. Leach was behind a tree, dressed in a t-shirt and sweatpants, with his little dog, Chula, right there beside him.
“He was cold, he was hungry,” Woods said. “We put jackets on him. One of the officers had a pop tart and handed it to him. He ate it fast. He was hungry”
The search welcomed dozens of community members wanting to help, many of them walking up and down the mountain in the rain and heavy terrain in hopes of locating the child.
“A bunch of us came out here even before the police were called and decided to walk to see what we could do,” Lori Marr said.
Tim Lawson went out with his dog, hoping its smell would help detect Kaydon and Chula.
“I have kids of my own,” Lawson said. “If my kid was missing, I would hope someone would try to help find them. “
It’s a happy ending to a story that could have taken a very different turn, and Woods said the reunion marks a highlight in his career as a firefighter.
“I’ve seen a lot of bad stuff in 20 years, that right there yesterday makes up for it all,” Woods said. “When it ends the way it ended yesterday, it makes up for it all.”
Leach’s family said the child and the dog cuddled, keeping each other warm throughout the night during the heavy rain. When the sun came up, the six-year-old said he was trying to find his way back home.