A little girl missing her favorite stuffed friend got an amazing surprise, thanks to an old family friend and a little Christmas magic.
Eleanor Dewald, 8, of Royal Oak, and her family landed Wednesday evening at Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan Airport after a difficult flight from Dallas. When it was bedtime, she realized one member of the family hadn't made it home.
Missing: a stuffed bear named Teddy. Teddy and Eleanor have been best friends ever since the last day of preschool.
"Teddy goes everywhere with Eleanor, so he occasionally ends up in a snowbank or under a car seat," said her mom Trish Dewald, 38. "But Teddy wasn't anywhere that Teddy would usually be."
Trish Dewald called the airline and filed a lost items claim. She didn't know what else to do, so she posted this photo of a very similar (and cleaner-looking) Teddy on Facebook.
The post reads:
How might one go about posting an amber alert for a missing Teddy? Last seen: Detroit Metro Airport North Terminal on 12/21/16 at 6:05pm. Looks similar to the one pictured though more....ahem..."loved".
Height: approximately 12"
Reward: 8 year old girl child's undying appreciation
If seen, contact parental units of said girl child.
Authorities (DTW lost and found/airline lost and found) have been notified. #operationteddy
Then, Steven Laudeman saved the day and gave Teddy an adventure too.
Friends of Trish Dewald began tagging other friends in the comments of the Facebook post. That's how Laudeman, 38, saw the plea to help find Teddy. Laudeman and Trish Dewald attended middle school and high school together in St. Clair Shores and kept in touch.
"Twelve hours later, I didn't think the bear would still actually be there," Laudeman said. But he decided to search anyway before his shift began as a ramp agent at Southwest Airlines.
He tried the lost and found. No Teddy. So Laudeman retraced Eleanor's steps. The Dewald's bags had flown through a separate airline so he checked the Spirit lost and found. No Teddy there either. He asked an agent, who said she had seen a bear who looked an awful lot like Teddy, over by the garbage.
When Laudeman found the right garbage can, Teddy was perched on the rim, right next to the hole where the trash goes. But he hadn't fallen in.
Teddy was safe. Now, Laudeman decided, it was time for his new furry friend to have a little fun.
"In some of the comments on the Facebook post, Trish said Eleanor would love it if the bear went on an adventure," he explained. "And I had the bear for eight hours."
Take a look at Teddy's adventures at Detroit-Wayne County Metropolitan Airport:
PHOTOS: Lost teddy bear adventures through DTW with airline worker
A few of his coworkers looked at Laudeman like he was crazy, but "I have two little boys of my own," he said. "They would be so upset if they lost their stuffed animals. I understood."
Thursday evening, Teddy and his favorite little girl in the world were reunited. Eleanor's eyes lit up when she saw her almost-lost stuffed bear. She thanked Laudeman with a little gift and a card she wrote out herself.
Trish Dewald called her old friend Laudeman one of the kindest men she knows.
"So much time has passed and so many people come in and out of your lives, and to have someone stay in touch like this -- It's so meaningful to our family," she said. " That's how we got Teddy back."
Thursday marks Steve Laudeman's 13-year anniversary since he began working at Southwest Airlines at DTW. It was the first day on the job he spent alongside a lost teddy bear.