UPDATED 06/21/12 – 4:33 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — A search for a missing teenage boy from the South Side ended happily two dozen miles away in Glenview Thursday morning.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, Kahil Gray, 15, who has autism, was found around 6 a.m. in Glenview by a woman riding her bicycle on a bike path.
He was reunited with his parents at Glenbrook Hospital, also in Glenview, a short time later.
Kahil had last been seen Tuesday afternoon at the University Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital, when he just ran away from the hospital while he was with his father to run an errand. His family believes he walked 26 miles to Glenview, braving 90-plus degree temperatures all through the time he was gone.
When Kahil arrived at Glenbrook Hospital, doctors say, he was extremely dehydrated and needed a lot of water. But overall, he was in good condition.
Kahil’s parents, Michael and Beryl Gray, came out of the emergency room with their son in a wheelchair late Thursday morning.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports
Beryl Gray said she hasn’t slept since Tuesday afternoon, when Kahil was last seen outside of Comer Children’s Hospital in Hyde Park.
“It was just joy; overwhelming. I was so overwhelmed; it’s like, I really couldn’t believe it’s really happening. It’s still like I’m living in a dream,” Beryl Gray said. “But it’s reality. It’s reality. I am here today, and Kahil is here, and I can touch him, and I can feel him. We hugged each other and spoke with him, and he talked to me too.”
Kahil’s family was particularly worried about him because he can only speak a few words. But a bicyclist, Mary Olander, was still able to identify him in the Blue Star Memorial Woods in Glenview.
RAW AUDIO: Mary Olander talks about finding Kahil
“I just happened to see him, and I heard the story last night on the news, and I wasn’t exactly sure it was him, so I went a little past him, pulled over on my bike, pulled up the news story on my phone – you know, the picture looked similar – his description, the clothing and everything,” Olander told WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser.
Olander approached Kahil and called 911, as she led him to the mouth of the forest preserve at Harms Road. She said Kahil, who is nonverbal, only pointed when she asked him his name, how old he was and where he lived, but walked with her when she asked him to.
“I asked if he was thirsty. I gave him my water. I had a whole bottle of water, and he drank the whole thing nonstop – didn’t stop to take a breath or anything,” Olander said. “And I was thinking, yeah, if he’s drinking water this fast, it’s got to be him; that he hadn’t had anything for a while.”
Kahil was carrying his shirt, rather than wearing it, when Olander saw him. He looked like he had been wandering around for some time. Olander said Kahil put his shirt back on when she told him a police officer was going to come to pick him up.
CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot was the only reporter with the family on Thursday for an emotional meal after the reunion.
“It’s one of the most wonderful feelings we have ever come across,” Beryl Gray said. “We can’t even explain how we’re feeling right now. You can see for yourself. This is a moment of joy!”
The Gray family sat down for breakfast at Walker Bros. The Original Pancake House in Glenview.
Kahil smiled as his brother cut up pancakes for him.
“It’s a real happy ending, a real happy ending,” Beryl said.
It was the family’s first meal together since Kahil ran out of the University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital on Tuesday.
“It’s a blessing that this could happen again, because you know, we could have had a more terrible ending, and it would have been on a sad note,” Beryl said.
Kahil’s father, Michael Gray, said, “God is good. God is great, because I don’t know how our lives would be without him. The last two days, oh boy, you wouldn’t know.”
He said he believes it all happened for a reason.
“It is to not only bring us closer, but also keep us focused; what is important to us,” he said. “A life we should not take for granted. The things we have, they can be taken away like that.”
Another thing the Gray family said they’ve learned is the tremendous kindness of others – from the Good Samaritan who found their son, to the many people who have offered to help them get services to help their son.