By Eddie Drews
INDIANAPOLIS — Somewhere near the Indiana-Ohio border on State Road 8 Moosy, the beloved stuffed animal of 5-year-old Jayden Banks, took flight.
While riding with his father, Nicholas Banks, on his way home from his grandmother’s house after an overnight stay with his sister, Jayden had his car window down. Moosy was sucked out of the window, leaving Jayden devastated.
Jayden, diagnosed with autism early in his life, has a vocabulary that is limited to 20 to 50 words, classifying him as nonverbal, his mom said.
Five-year-old Jayden Banks being reunited with his stuffed animal, Moosy. Provided photo
Moosy is his best friend and acts as a comfort object, which helps him communicate and makes him feel safe.
After realizing Moosy was gone, Nicholas Banks called his wife and immediately turned around to start searching.
“Of course I panicked,” Jessica Banks said. “Moosy is everything to Jayden.”
Jessica Banks called the Indiana Department of Transportation and asked for help to locate the stuffed animal.
“Without Moosy we don’t sleep at night, we don’t take baths, we don’t do anything without Moosy,” she said. “So that kind of takes our world to a screeching halt.”
Jayden’s parents walked and drove along the side of the highway searching for the moose, even calling friends for help, but to no avail.
“Out of desperation, I posted it on Facebook as an almost last plea for help from the community,” Jessica Banks said.
Without Moosy, Jayden wasn’t sleeping. Instead, he was sitting at the window of his home, looking out and crying for his lost friend.
After generous offers of Facebook users to send Jayden new stuffed animals, Jessica Banks received a call from INDOT, which had employees on the hunt for Moosy.
INDOT Highway Technician Tony Baugher had found Moosy in a ditch under some brush.
“We just saw something brown, so we stopped the truck and got out and looked and that’s what it was,” Baugher said.
After retrieving the moose, Baugher told his foreman, Randy Wilson, that he had found it. When INDOT notified Jessica Banks that Moosy had been found, she broke down in tears.
“I couldn’t believe that someone would make such an effort to purposely send people out to go look,” Jessica Banks said. “It’s such an act of kindness.”
Nichole Hacha-Thomas, media relations director for INDOT’s Fort Wayne District, said that they posted a call for action on Facebook as well in hopes that it would get the community looking for the lost moose.
Moosy and his rescuer, Highway Technician Tony Baugher. Provided Photo
“We just want to be an agency that is responsive to our customers,” she said. To their young customer, Jayden, they are not only a responsive agency, they are heroes.
Jayden and Moosy were inseparable for more than 24 hours after Moosy returned, said Jessica Banks.
“Moosy went to the bathroom, Moosy went in the bathtub, Moosy went everywhere,” she said. “We barely got her away from him long enough to put it through the washing machine.”
Jayden has since taken a well-deserved 14-hour slumber and is no longer staring out his window crying for his best friend. His mother is finally at ease too, thanks to INDOT and the Facebook community helped find Moosy.
“They say that it takes a village to raise a child,” said Jessica Banks. “And this village really stood up to help.”
Eddie Drews is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.