Toddler found alone in parking lot after wandering from daycare

- Dana De Bernardi says a bad habit proved to be potentially lifesaving Saturday afternoon after 2-year-old Reid Wagner walked out of Kids Park daycare in Wesley Chapel unnoticed.

"Who knows where that child would have ended up had I not come out for my bad habit," De Bernardi said. “I don’t know how he went from this building to behind this car, without anybody seeing him.”

The Ashley Furniture employee was taking a smoke break when she saw the boy alone behind a parked car.

“I kind of stumbled and I looked at him,” she said. “I didn’t move, and I kind of just looked around, and I was looking for a parent who was maybe on the phone."

She says the child tried to step up onto a curb but he fell face first into the bushes. He got back up and started making his way across the parking where she saw a van coming toward him. She knew in that moment, she needed to react quickly.

“My mom instincts kicked in, and I just ran, I bolted, and I grabbed him and I picked him up,” she said. “He had no shoes on his feet, he had only socks. He was red, so nobody knows how long he was out here.

Not long after, a Kids Park employee came walking toward them.

“And she said, 'Reid, where have you been what have you been doing? How did you get out here?’ And she went to grab him, and I kind of pulled away like, you know, I’m not giving this child to you. It wasn’t until he put his arms out to her that he might have felt comfortable with her and that’s when I allowed him to go into her arms," De Bernardi said.

The daycare’s owner, Amanda Justus, says the 2-year old followed another parent out the door on a day when there were 28 children to four teachers at the facility.

“Our system failed, it was a million percent our fault,” Justus said. “We will get the doors fixed as well. Even if somebody did accidently come out, they still can’t come out the main door.” 

De Bernardi and Reid’s mother, Becky, met after she was informed of the incident.

“She just broke down, and she said you saved my son's life,” De Bernardi said. “I don’t consider myself a hero; I just hope to believe that anybody would have done that for that child.”

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