Search teams in central Virginia plan to gather at King's Dominion again Friday morning to resume their search for 9-year-old Robert Wood, Jr.
The search for the missing autistic boy is rounding its fifth day Thursday. Robert disappeared Sunday afternoon while hiking near North Anna Battlefield Park in Hanover County.
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.
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.
“You of course imagine your child out there and with the special circumstances for this little boy it just makes it even more heartbreaking. He's got to be out there. He's got to be here,” said Anita Schrunk, who has three children of her own.
Volunteer searchers will be out again Friday. Those who exceeded the daily quota of 1,000 volunteers Thursday were asked to register and get trained for the next day.
Near the park, friends, family and people who had never even met the boy or his family are pausing to offer their time and their prayers for Robert's recovery.
"Right now, most of us believe he still has a good chance of surviving," searcher Martin Dudziak. "We all consider this still rescue oriented."