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Students recognized for spotting, reporting wandering toddler

"I feel like I did something very important"
Posted at 5:35 AM, Aug 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-23 09:47:49-04

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Six Neil Armstrong Elementary students are being praised as "Positive Astros" for their actions in reuniting a lost child with her family.

The incident happened in early August, according to a Charlotte County Sheriff's Office announcement.

It was recess time for the fifth-grade class, and the group noticed the child wandering around the backside of the school fence by herself.

"All of a sudden, Emily points out there's a baby over the fence," recalled Carter Williams.

"We were all very worried," added Evan Wendzel. "It was kind of concerning because we don't know how the toddler got out."

Some time was spent trying to coax the small girl to stay within their sights.

"I was like, 'come back, come back,'" said Madison Ford. "'I'm friendly; come on.'"

As Carter pointed out, she could have gotten hurt.

"...If someone, like, walking, walks up to them — stranger danger. Or cars going through the road; you can get hit. A big truck can't see a little baby."

School Resource Officer Deputy Alex Deleon said the kids immediately notified their teacher, who in turn reported school resource officers and administrators.

Deleon and the administrators got a call out over police radio and then joined in trying to catch up to the little girl, who by that point had wandered to another portion of the fence and was standing in some grass.

"She was in a little ditch with a little bit of water," said Principal Angie Taillon. "My fear was that she was right on the road, within a foot of the road."

The child's mother quickly realized her child had wandered away, and the girl was safely reunited with her parents, with no injuries to the child reported.

"I'm just happy that she's safe with her mother," said Evan. "She's fine; she's not hurt."

"It makes me feel amazing," said Madison. "I feel like I did something very important."

Taillon said initially only four children were recognized by the adults; however, the first four made sure the credit was given to everyone involved. She recalls the scene when all six were pulled into her office.

"I looked over and they were all in a group hug," she said. "In a huddle, hugging each other. They're just so incredibly proud of each other. They're cheerleaders for each other. To see outside of yourself and not want all the recognition, is huge."

Special badges were presented by school and sheriff's office staff to the entire group:

  • Evan Wendzel
  • Emily Byrd
  • Carter Williams
  • Benjamin Abbott
  • Madison Ford
  • Jorge Flores

Charlotte County Sheriff's Office says all six have been given local "Do the Right Thing" awards. In addition, the group was given the "Leading By Example" award through their office.