HEALTH

Robert Wood, autistic boy, found alive

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Autistic 8-year-old Robert Wood, Jr., who has been missing since Sunday, has been found.

"Robert is a very strong and determined little boy," his father, Robert Wood Sr., said in a statement released hours after his son was found. "We never gave up hope that he would return home safe."

Hanover County Sheriff David Hines says Robert Wood Jr. was found in a creek bed in a fetal position around 2 p.m. Friday and reunited with his family.

People around the region had followed the search for the boy and greeted the news with relief.

Many turned to social networking sites to get out the word and express their feelings. Religious groups on Facebook, like St. Michael Society, created a prayer chain Friday morning asking for support. Just hours later, the status reads "miraculous news" with postings like "hope, prayer and faith do work".

“I was surprised that he was found alive,” said D.C. resident Debra Osemwegie, whoc volunteers with special needs children in the area.

Osemwegie wonders if the autistic boy may not have realized the severity of the situation,

"We help rehabilitate... Counsel them, they are not by themselves, there are other people in the world like them,” she said.

The foundation Autism Speaks quickly tweeted after the rescue, "thanks to all of the volunteers and our thoughts are with the Wood family".

Wood was in good condition but taken to a hospital for treatment.

The boy was found at a quarry about one mile from North Anna Battlefield Park, where he disappeared while on a walk with family on Sunday.

Authorities had previously searched the area where Robert was discovered.

“He was in good shape,” said a law enforcement official. “We’re just thankful he was located."

Robert disappeared Sunday afternoon while hiking near North Anna Battlefield Park in Hanover County.

“As a father of five, I can only imagine the fear, uncertainty, and sadness that Robert’s family endured during this difficult time,” said Governor Bob McDonnell in a statement. “A true sense of community and selflessness was displayed as thousands of volunteers showed up day after day to participate in the search.”

Robert presumably spent his fourth night in the elements on Wednesday, when temperatures dipped into the 40s. Volunteers have come out in the hundreds, refusing to give up the search.

"Something in your gut tells you that this is what you need to do," volunteer searcher Stacie Hudson said. "If it were my child, I would want those people out there."

About 1,000 people came to help, so many that some volunteers had to be turned away. Many volunteers are mothers themselves, such as Jenny Harris, whose husband stayed home from work this afternoon to watch their 9- and 11-year-old boys so she could aid the search.

"To hear there was a 9-year-old boy out on his own, especially in his condition, is just heartbreaking. I would want somebody to come out and help my boys if they were out there,” Harris said. (Authorities originally said Robert was 9 years old, but corrected his age to 8 on Friday.)

Volunteers spread out in teams through the 14-mile search area to look under tarps, inside containers, anywhere a boy could hide.

“We're supposed to be looking for anything. He's wearing a red jacket, black shoes, he could be up in a tree, hiding under something, just anything,” said Rita Cook, whose father picked up her own 9- and 5-year-old sons from school Thursday so she could join the search.

Searchers have combed riverbeds and trekked along railroad tracks during their hunt, saying that as the sun goes down each night, their resolve doesn't. After four days presumably outside, food, water and shelter for the boy are concerns.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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