DOVER, Ohio - Tuscarawas County Sheriff Orvis Campbell says from the moment his department got the call from a desperate mother saying her son had run away there was an urgency to find him.
The nine-year-old boy wandered into the darkness around his family's home, surrounded by snow-covered, wooded hills.
"What made it immediately urgent was the weather. We knew he was not equipped to build a fire, he didn't have lighting, he didn't have the things he needed to camp out properly. He didn't have a tent so we knew he was going to be exposed to the elements wherever he was," said Campbell.
In the woods there was little light and as the temperatures started to fall, Campbell says the determination to find the boy grew.
"It was pretty cold out. It started out about 40 degrees then dropped a few degrees as we went on a search. Those of us who were searching were heavily bundled and we were cold so we knew he had to be," said Campbell.
Deputies were joined in the search by state troopers and Dover firefighters, who tried using a thermal-sensing camera from the ground.
"When we were out there we were just looking from the driveway and from the house out into the woods and see what we could see. Unfortunately, we weren't able to find anything with the cameras," said Firefighter Shane Wells.
"The K-9 tracked for a while with the aid of some footprints in the snow that were found initially, but they ended up going to a driveway and onto a road and then after a while, the K-9 lost his track," said Campbell.
After hours of searching unsuccessfully, the sheriff decided to ask for the help of an Ohio Highway Patrol helicopter also equipped with a thermal imaging camera.
About an hour after the helicopter and its crew joined the search, the boy was spotted on the top of a hill across from his family's home.
Campbell says he was asleep, curled up in the snow. The boy was wet and freezing but alive.
Campbell believes that without the help of the helicopter, the boy might not have survived for much longer.
The boy's mother tells Fox 8 News that she is thankful for the efforts of the searchers who gave up time away from their own families to be with hers.
"They weren't going to give up until he was found," she said.
Campbell believes the boy knew they were searching for him but was afraid that he was in trouble.
"We had some cars on the roadway with those bright LED lights in the middle of the night, so I think we probably frightened him that he was in more trouble," said Campbell.
Both the sheriff and the boy's mother say everyone was emotional when he was found.
"You know you sleep better at night when you know they found him and he's not still out there, wondering where he was at," said Wells.
"We were very happy. It was emotional as it went on close to eight hours. Most of the staff was pretty concerned. When we found him it was pretty emotional for all of us," said Campbell.