Autistic Man Found After Wandering Wis. Woods for a Week

An autistic man who disappeared a week ago from a camp for the disabled and who relies on medication after a kidney transplant was found alive in the woods Sunday, authorities said.

Keith Kennedy, 25, of Shoreview, Minn., was found about 7 p.m., weakened but safe. He was flown to the University of Minnesota hospital in the Twin Cities.

"He was dehydrated, his body temperature was a little low, lots of bug bites, of course," said Cindi Throngard, a volunteer who staffed phone lines set up to coordinate the search. "I can tell you, we're totally elated right now. We're just starting to breathe again."

Searchers feared Kennedy might suffer a medical emergency without the anti-rejection drugs he has taken since his transplant in 1995. He can only speak four words, and searchers had feared he might not respond if they called out to him.

He was found about a mile from the camp in an area inaccessible by road, deputies said. Hundreds of volunteers had helped scour at least 14 square miles, a search that included helicopters and boaters.

Kennedy vanished June 15 from the Trade Lake Camp in Grantsburg, where he was one of 13 campers who arrived for the week. The campers had just been given their nighttime snacks and were retiring for the evening when Kennedy disappeared, Throngard said.

Staffers speculate that Kennedy, who had a well-known fondness for popcorn, sneaked back to the cafeteria to get more, and then failed to return to his cabin because he was afraid of getting in trouble, Throngard said.

Kennedy had stayed at the camp two other years and never did anything to make staffers think he might wander away, Throngard said.

As the days passed, searchers never gave up hope, Throngard said.

"The volunteers that came everyday came with the attitude that today's going to be the day," she said. "His parents were here every day. They brought that same attitude and it was just contagious."