Exclusive: Family of Found 3-Year-Old Speaks

Parents talk about 3-year-old son's survival in rugged Missouri woods.

ByABC News via logo
May 7, 2009, 8:59 PM

May 8, 2009 — -- Eating bologna from his hospital bed,3-year-old Joshua Childers, who survived two chilly, rainy nights in the Missouri woods with no food or water, declined to take part in an interview with "Good Morning America" because it was too simple for him.

"He's gonna go bear hunting with a stick," Adam Childers, Joshua's father, told "GMA" Friday .

Fifty-two hours after he unlocked a deadbolt and ran out of his parents' home, a search volunteer found Joshua about three miles from home, lying by a creek bed, wearing only a T-shirt and one shoe.

The adventurous young man later told his parents "he was going on a hike, going to granny's house," Adam Childers said.

Joking aside, Adam and mom Michelle Childers said a huge weight was lifted from them when Joshua was found. Moving into day three of the search, the Childers were growing increasingly worried.

"Especially at night, I knew he was scared, hungry," Michelle said.

Joshua told his parents he drank water from a creek and miraculously avoided other dangers in the rugged Mark Twain National Forest, home to, among other things bears, mountain lions and snakes.

"There's animals out there that most people wouldn't want to meet up with in a well-lit parking lot," Adam said.

Joshua vowed not to wander alone into the woods again, but his dad is not so sure.

"Give him a week, and he'll be out there again," Childers said. "We're going to have to put a GPS on him."

'Tough Little Bugger'

Donnie Halpin, the volunteer who found Joshua, said the boy was in "really good shape" and did not even complain.

"He jumped right up and grinned at me," Halpin told The Associated Press. "I said, 'You ready to go home?' He said, 'Yeah.' ... He hung on to me pretty tight. Outside of a few scratches, he was in really good shape."

Joshua was found three miles from his Arcadia, Mo., home from which the diaper-clad toddler wandered away Monday morning.

After Halpin found the boy, he gave the child some candy, wrapped him in his own shirt and carried him a half mile to a house where a woman fed the boy, the AP said.

Joshua's father, Adam Childers, told reporters Wednesday he was surprised at the boy's resilience.

"I don't know how he did it," Childers said. "I don't know grown men that could do it. But all I can say is, he's a tough little bugger."

Joshua was taken to Iron County Hospital and then Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Crystal City, where he was listed in fair condition, according to the AP.

Joshua's discovery ended a massive two-day search involving police, volunteers on foot and in all-terrain-vehicles, professional agencies and even planes provided by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Divers and sonar were dispatched by the state's Water Patrol.

Searchers found one of Joshua's shoes Monday afternoon, but when the skies darkened, what hope they had began to dwindle.

"He's so little and the weather, you know the rain and everything, I was afraid it was not going to be a good ending," one searcher told "GMA."

It was actually the harsh weather that brought Halpin out to join the search in the first place. A heavy rain on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning canceled his work for the day on a construction site, so he decided to show up to volunteer, according to the AP. He found the boy after wandering down an old ATV trail.