Police Explorers recognized for help locating lost child

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Police Explorers is a program where teenagers learn good citizenship and what it's like to be a police officer.

A group of these future civil servants in Polk County is being recognized for coming through in a very scary situation.

What happened on the shores of Lake Silver in Winter Haven makes parents cringe. A mom lost her little boy during the city's daytime Halloween party on October 28.

The fear was that the missing child was in nearby Lake Silver.

"She was frantic and we were trying to calm her down," says Winter Haven Mayor Steven Hunnicutt.

Also at the event that day, a group of Police Explorers practicing some of the skills they've learned. They had no idea they'd be thrust into a real-life emergency.

"We split into teams of two to try to find him," 14-year-old Piper Hungerford remembers.

She and four other teenaged Police Explorers began to organize a search.

"We'll get into teams, go around, and think fast," said 15-year-old Murvyn Suttle, recalling how the explorers sprang into action.

They began their organized search just as they were trained, searching the lakefront first and then the rest of the park.

Minutes later they arrived at the splash pad. A restroom was nearby. Explorer Andrew Giroux, 16, went in, opened a stall, and found the little boy huddled beside the toilet.

Giroux says the little guy was frightened at first.

"I coaxed him out, carried him back to his mother and radioed in," he says.

The reunion of mother and child happened minutes later.

"It just felt good to find him and help her calm down," says Hungerford.

In a ceremony at the police station, the explorers received the Chief's Commendation.

"There's so much negative on young folks right now. To see kids that are stepping up and being courageous is something that really makes you proud," said Winter Haven Police Chief Charles Bird.  

Several of the explorers say they may be interested in becoming police officers.

What happened at Lake Silver was a lesson in the value of serving the public.