On a warm April evening in 2018, the parents of a six-year-old boy named Kaydon realized that their child had mysteriously gone missing. At first, they thought he was playing hide and seek, but they quickly realized that wasn’t the case. After nearly 22 hours searching for him, they find him, but stop in their tracks when they see he isn’t alone.
The family resided in a small community called Top of the World in Blount County, Tennessee. His parents were not worried about Kaydon playing alone as long as he did not go too far without telling them about it. However, darkness had already fallen and Kaydon was still not home on April 23, 2018.
He Didn’t Come Home
His parents naturally felt concerned about his whereabouts. After all, he was typically home by 6 PM. While they knew that he had only been playing outside as usual, things started to get serious when he had yet to return home in the evening.
A Good Boy
But who is Kaydon Leach? He is a happy and good boy who liked to do outdoorsy things and liked playing with pets. He has a black and white terrier called Chula. Just like kids his age, he gets into quite a lot of antics too.
Not Taking A Risk
In the beginning, his parents thought that he was only somewhere in the house. However, they got in touch with James Lee Berrong, Blount County Sheriff, when they realized their mistake. They did not want to take any chances since it was getting cold and dark, and Kaydon had no coat on.
A Missing Child
It is every parent’s worst nightmare for their kid to go missing. It is just natural for them to feel the need to protect their kid, so you can imagine just how frightening it must be when this happens. Kaydon’s parents are no exception to the rule.
Bad Gut Feeling
They had no idea why their son vanished so suddenly. However, they did want to find him and bring him back. There was clearly something unusual happening here. While they had no idea that this was the case, they got a gut feeling that this was the case.
No Time to Lose
The County Sheriff was aware that time was of the essence. He quickly enlisted the help of others to help spread the word about Kaydon. Normally, a person has to wait for at least 24 hours before they are allowed to file a missing person alert. However, it was a tight-knight community, so it was not the case.
Trying To Be Optimistic
His parents were so worried that he got lost somewhere. He did not have his coat on, so perhaps he was freezing! The Sheriff did not want to think about the worst scenario just yet, which is why he worked immediately and provided the family as much help as he possibly could.
The Missing Boy’s Profile
At 7 o’clock that evening, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation released an endangered child alert. According to the Sheriff’s Office, the alert reported the way Kaydon looked. It implored the members of the community to look for him and noted that he was last seen at around 6 o’clock.
His parents described Kaydon as 4 feet tall, weighing 27 kg or 60 pounds, and having brown hair and blue eyes. Aside from this, they also told the Sheriff what he had been wearing at the time of his disappearance. He had slip-on shoes, gray sweatpants, and a black shirt on.
The local Sheriff’s department carried out a search and rescue mission. Meanwhile, the nearby McGhee Tyson Airbase used a military Blackhawk helicopter to aid in the search. It started quickly after Berrong received the phone call from the Leach family.
Apart from using the chopper to look for the boy, they also launched a ground operation. The search and rescue team was composed of almost a hundred first responders who crossed 2,000 acres of mountainous terrain. The question, however, was if they would be able to find this young boy before it got late.
Marian O’Briant, the spokeswoman of the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, told WVLT News that the ground search teams, along with military assistance, would comb the area throughout the night if this was what it took to find the young boy. There were other searches happening as well.
Ground teams like the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), Blount County Fire Department, Blount County Search and Rescue Tea, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Blount County Chief Deputy Jeff French, and Blount County Sheriff’s Department, all carried out their own grid searches to look for Kaydon.
A Community Comes Together
When the word got out that he disappeared, members of the local community did their part too. An Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) message was sent out by the Blount County Emergency Services in a matter of hours to let everyone know what was going on.
A Caring Community
When the people in the local community got the message, they were aware that they also had to act. After all, the life of a child was on the line here. We bet they were reminded of their own kids and grandkids. It must have struck a chord with all of them.
Apart from the IPAWS message broadcasted out, the Blount County community heard about what was going on thanks to a smartphone application called Next Door. This program helped spread the word even further. It is a rather private social network for people in a neighborhood.
A lot of people could not help with the search, but they made sure to do anything they could to help. One of the local volunteers told WVLT News, “We’re a very tight community. We try to help everyone. I got a phone call about what was going on. I was coming up the mountain from work and just shot straight over and did everything I could to help.”
A Helping Hand
Megan Kessler, who also lived in the neighborhood, heard about the disappearance and started an initiative of her own to help the search and rescue teams. She gave the volunteers food and water. She spoke to WVLT News and said, “We knew it was going to be a long night.” She also said, “We brought coffee, chili, whatever they needed. We wanted to make sure we could supply it. They wouldn’t let us search, so we did what we could.”
A Viral Post
Everyone helped to spread the word about this piece of news. The Tennessee Endangered Child Alert also made a Facebook post with a photo of the boy. They also gave the description of what Kaydon Leach looked like and the circumstances before he disappeared. WBIR Channel 10 also shared the post.
The Power Of Media
When it was updated with additional information, the post got shared more than 2,000 times and received over 350 reactions. The entire community was working hard to look for Kaydon’s whereabouts. Word spread like wildfire!
Time Was Running Out
In spite of their best efforts and the help of the local volunteers, the search did not turn up anything of value. They failed to find where the little boy was. It was also dark and cold by then.
Getting More Worried
Time was running out, and authorities were starting to feel concerned about the possibility of the missing boy getting a respiratory infection if they did not find him soon. Kaydon had not been wearing warm clothes at the time, so the weather could be fatal for him. This made them act with more urgency.
An Urgent Search
His family knew that he was not wearing clothes that were anywhere near warm enough to keep him through the night. That could prove to be fatal for someone of his age and size. It was urgent that he be found as soon as possible. This was the point where more and more people became involved in the search for Kaydon. They all knew the importance of finding him quickly. None of them wanted to hear about a tragedy that might come out of this.
The Search Continues
The search went on for the next couple of hours. They focused on the area within a half-mile radius of the Leach family home. They needed to wait for the morning to further expand the search into the surrounding rural and mountainous area.
They Hoped He Was Okay
Of course, his parents were worried sick about the young boy. They were nervous, frightened, and even guilty for letting him play outside on his own. It took a while, but they would later learn that Kaydon was safe and sound. What happened?
A Dedicated And Close-Knit Community
The members of the community certainly proved just how close-knit and dedicated they all were by staying up the entire night. They handed out water and snacks to the volunteers. It was their own way to help out the first responders who had been working tirelessly to look for Kaydon.
They Were Determined To Find Him
They knew that Kaydon was just somewhere out there. It was only a matter of remaining focused and dedicated. There was no way they would give up on the mission until they returned Kaydon to the family. They were determined to do just that.
The Daylight Comes
When it was daytime again, it became a bit easier to look for the young boy. While it was still difficult to search for him, no one lost hope. They all held onto hope that they would find Kaydon safe and sound.
Since the crews had even more ideas of where to look, it was time for them all to get down and look for Kaydon some more. Of course, both of his parents were worried that Kaydon was scared, starving, and alone somewhere. Everyone hoped that he was alright.
No Stone Left Unturned
The search crews event went to the lake to look for him since it was possible that he fell in or drowned. However, they did not see him there. As the ground search took place, the Blackhawk chopper continued to look for him from up above too.
Covering All Grounds
After checking the lake, they decided to take a look at the mountainsides and various abandoned buildings in the area. It was possible that Kaydon took shelter in one of those buildings to keep himself safe from the cold. Sadly, they did not find him there either.
The morning hours went by, and they still had no lead on where Kaydon Leach was. His folks tried to think of where else he could possibly have gone. Could something sinister have happened here? To the people there, it sounded like an impossibility in their community.
His Parents Didn’t Understand
To his parents, it did not at all make sense that he disappeared all of a sudden. After all, he was aware of his curfew and how far he was allowed to go. Everyone knew that something here did not add up.
Thinking Outside The Box
The rescuers tried thinking just like a little boy to figure out where Kaydon might have gone when he was playing outside. This only made them think outside the box. They even tried to look in areas and places that they would not have considered otherwise. Aside from the abandoned buildings, they also checked the woods. They did not know it yet, but they were getting warmer and warmer.
They started searching abandoned buildings in the area. Then, they ventured into the woods to keep looking. They weren’t aware of the fact that they were getting closer and closer to finding Kaydon at last. They had a feeling they were finally onto something.
When the crew went into the woods not far from the neighborhood, they made sure to check the whole place. If Kaydon was not there, they were officially out of ideas on where else he could have gone. The afternoon was wearing on, and everyone knew that they would get stuck when it was nighttime again. Time was running out, but they then heard a strange noise in the woods that got their attention.
A Startling Noise
The afternoon went on. All the volunteers involved knew they had to keep looking before it got dark and the night fell. The clock was, quite literally, ticking. Suddenly, they all heard a noise. It was coming from inside the woods. It immediately piqued their interest. What if it was him calling out for help?
About 22 hours after this young boy went missing, the rescuers finally found something helpful. They all heard a growl from somewhere in the woods. As they made their way towards its source, they could hear that the growling was getting louder and stronger. Even though they had no idea what they might see, they kept going. It sounded just like a growling dog, so they felt the need to investigate. They were deep in the woods, and there were many possibilities at play.
What Animal Was It?
They had no idea what they might see, but they kept following the sound. Since it sounded a lot like a dog growling to them, they knew they had to find out what it was. However, they were deep in the woods, so there were endless possibilities as to what the sound could actually be.
Found At Last
The volunteers and rescuers approached the place where the sound was coming from. It was then that they saw Kaydon! They were only half a mile away from his house. This meant that he did not venture too far the night before.
Who Stayed With Him?
The young boy must have lost his bearings, felt paralyzed from fear, and chose to stay right there. However, the thing that shocked everyone about this was that he was not on his own when he went missing. No, someone stayed by his side.
At about 3:30 PM that day, they officially found Kaydon Leach around 22 hours ever since he vanished. When they found him, they also saw what was making the growling sound. It was his black-and-white terrier, Chula! “The dog growled at the rescuers when they approached Kaydon, so the dog is a protector,” said BCSO Chief Deputy Jeff French. Chula did her best to keep Kaydon safe the entire night that they spent in the woods.
Chula Kept Him Safe
In a statement, BCSO Chief Deputy Jeff French said, “The dog growled at the rescuers when they approached Kaydon, so the dog is a protector.” Chula really did everything in her power to keep Kaydon safe and sound the entire night when they’d been inside the woods.
Some Medical Attention Needed
When they found the missing boy, he did not look good. After asking Kaydon how he felt, the only thing he told them was, “Very cold.” He was wearing nothing more than gray sweatpants and a black shirt. This explains why he was so cold that night. On top of that, his skin was purple and cold as well.
They Got Help
On top of that, the search team asked him where he was staying. When he gave them the address, they informed Kaydon that they would take him to safety. He needed to get medical help, but they also had to look after Chula the dog as well.
Before Kaydon could be taken to his home by these responders, they first brought him to Blount Memorial Hospital so that he can be evaluated by medical personnel. They wanted to ensure that he did not get hypothermia and other health issues before they dropped him off at home.
Couldn’t Believe The Good News
His family felt very relieved to finally be reunited with the little boy. They had a hard time believing that Chula was there the entire time as well. It all sounded like something from a film or a book!
An Official Statement
While Kaydon was being checked out at Blount Memorial hospital, the little boy’s family decided to release an official statement. At first, they had no information regarding his condition or what was the cause of his disappearance. Still, his family wanted to thank the amazing local volunteers and rescue teams who went above and beyond to help them find their son.
A Message Of Thanks
Initially, they did not provide any information about how he was doing or how he disappeared. However, the family still wanted to extend their gratitude to the local volunteers and rescuers. His parents said, “We’re so thankful to everyone, from local law enforcement agencies to volunteers, who helped us find Kaydon. The amount of support we have received has been tremendous, even from people we don’t even know. We appreciate all our friends and neighbors, and ask for privacy at this time.”
There was a lot to celebrate when the news of his return made it to both the press and social media. A well-wisher on Facebook said, “So glad he was found safe.” A different person said, “Had the little guy on my mind since I found out he was lost. Something he can tell his grandkids, thank God.”
Outpour Of Support
Another Facebook user went ahead and commented, “I had the little guy on my mind since I found out he was lost. Something he can tell his grandkids, thank God.” The outpour of support continued with more and more people chiming in with their own stories and well wishes.
His Family Was So Thankful
Even though the members of the community spent 22 hours looking for him, their efforts all paid off when they finally found him and the dog. The piece of news made everyone feel both relieved and happy. They felt comforted when they learned that he was not alone that night.
From Concern To Relief
The only fact that comforted them in the slightest was that the little boy wasn’t alone throughout the night. The Top of the World community went through a whole whirlwind of emotions from the moment Kaydon went missing to the time he was finally found. They went from worry and concern to complete and utter relief.
A Whirlwind Of Emotions
The community of Top of the World went through a lot of emotions. It all started when they heard that he disappeared and began when he was found. They all remembered their kids and grandkids, so everyone made sure to help out as much as they could. Everybody in the county had been happy when they heard the news that Kaydon had been found. They had all been praying that he would be back home safe and sound. Fortunately, the nightmare was over at long last.
Safe And Sound
They’d been hoping and praying to hear that the little boy made it home safe and sound. They were so happy and relieved to hear that the nightmare was at last over and done with. The entire story was broadcasted across all news channels both locally and far away. However, the story was far from being over.
The sheriff was thankful when he was found and got emotional when he went on local TV to thank everyone who helped out. “I want to thank all these men and women who spent the last 20 something hours out here in the dark, the cold, and the rain,” he said. He added, “We had the FBI, TBI, Blount County Sheriff’s Department, Blount County Fire Department, Blount County Rescue Squad. It was a team effort and we couldn’t have done it without help.”
He went on to say, “We had the FBI, TBI, Blount County Sheriff’s Department, Blount County Fire Department, Blount County Rescue Squad. It was a team effort and we couldn’t have done it without the help.” Someone else deserved thanks as well. There was another someone who was involved who deserved to get credit for what they had done to help.
She Saved Him
There was someone else who needed to be thanked as well. The sheriff went ahead and thanked Daniel Self, his deputy officer. He had been the one to help Chula. Naturally, Chula was the little dog who saved her little owner, Kaydon. He’s lucky that the pup was out there to keep him company through the whole thing. It would have been terrifying otherwise!
The Hero Dog
The sheriff also thanked his deputy officer Daniel Self for attending to Chula. He held the dog and made sure that she was alright by giving her water and food. Everyone was thrilled when they found out that she served as a guardian angel to Kaydon that night. Her bond with him was unbreakable even during such difficult times. Chula had been truly heroic and did not even leave Kaydon for a single minute. Without a doubt, things might have turned out differently if this dog was not around to stay with him!
A Heroic Dog
It’s a known fact that a dog’s bond with its owner is insurmountable. This is especially true during difficult and trying times. Chula the dog was more than heroic. She never once left Kaydon’s side throughout the entire ordeal. She’s definitely the reason the little boy made it through the dark and cold night out in the woods. It’s scary to think of what could have happened had she not been there with him.
The Top of the World community felt like they were on top of the world after they found the poor boy that Tuesday afternoon. The moment they saw him in the woods, everyone could finally relax. It is never easy to hear bad news, but things can be changed when the community is full of kind and caring people who are willing to help out each step of the way. Everyone was ecstatic to hear that this little boy was now safe and sound.
Bount County fireman Aaron Woods happened to be one of the searches. He’s the one who ended up finding Kaydon and Chula. “I keep saying he popped up. To me, he did, because I had just looked over there. What I got to him, the dog was kinda giving me a little growl like ‘who are you?’” He couldn’t believe it. “I was grinning from ear to ear. Even afterward, after we got down to our debriefing and all the way home, I’ve seen a lot of bad stuff in my life, in my career, and this is the good stuff. This is the good stuff.”
Volunteering To Help
Volunteers have spoken about how happy they were to come together and be the first to join the search. “We’re a very tight community,” said one of them. “We try to help everyone. I got a phone call about what was going on. I was coming up the mountain from work and just shot straight over, and did everything I could to help.” When asked, volunteers have said they never would have given up, even those who couldn’t join the search physically.
“He’s a brave little boy,” Aaron Woods, continued. “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, “He was cold, he was hungry.” So, “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”
Dozens Of Volunteers
The hectic search welcomed dozens of members of the community who came along to help. A lot of them walked up and down the mountain in the rain just trying to locate the missing 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, another volunteer, took his dog out with him. He hoped the smell would help the dog locate 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.”
Thankfully for everyone involved, this story had a happy ending. Of course, things could have taken a much darker turn. Woods spoke about how this particular story became 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.” It’s been said that Kaydon and Chula were found cuddling for warmth. When the sun came up, the 6-year-old said he tried finding his way back home.
When things like this happen, it’s never easy. However, when a community is full of caring and kind people who help with every little thing, everything gets easier overall. Everyone must have been so relieved – ecstatic even – when Kaydon had been found. Now, he’s home safe and sound.
We can’t help but think about how incredible our pets are and how much they really do care about us. More than we realize. Without Chula staying faithfully by his side, Kaydon’s story could have turned out very differently, without such a happy ending to it.
As we all know, kids go missing too often in the United States, unfortunately. As a result, authorities all across the nation have come up with different methods and ways to locate them as quickly and safely as possible. One thing that has been created to help is what’s called an AMBER Alert. It stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. It’s an emergency message broadcast that’s sent out when a law enforcement agency determines a child has been abducted and is in immediate danger.
The AMBER Alert sometimes includes other helpful information to help locate the missing child and the abductor such as physical descriptions and other details relating to the abductor’s vehicle. These things could lead to the location of the child. This system started in 1996 in honor of Amber Hagerman. She was a 9-year-old who was abducted in Texas and murdered. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands have AMBER Alerts plans in place.
As of February 2020, the AMBER Alert system has been credited with the safe recovery of 985 children. That’s an amazing number! All the same, the reality is that on average, about 2,300 children go missing every day in the United States. They can go missing for many different reasons. From running away to getting lost, injured, or even getting abducted, it’s a scary reality to face. For this reason, the AMBER Alert system is so important.