Kid Wanders Off from Family at Central Park Zoo, Has “Greatest Day” of His Life

A shout out to Julie Davidson Meyers for sending this ftkknsrnrt
one, via Gawker
. Nine-year0ld Chris Villavicencio was at New York’s Central Park Zoo with his mom, dad and sister, when —

he became lost and wandered the city for two hours, trying to retrace his steps. The boy meandered through Times Square and eventually ended up at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, where police officers found him and gave him yogurt.

“This was the greatest day of my life, because this was the first day I was at the police station!” Chris, of Union City, N.J., told the Daily News.

The family was reunited at the bus terminal.

There’s something about setting 9-year-old’s free in NYC that just seems to make  them happy. – L

Central Park sure looks scary!

Central Park sure looks scary!


27 Responses to Kid Wanders Off from Family at Central Park Zoo, Has “Greatest Day” of His Life

  1. GRS August 3, 2014 at 7:37 pm #

    This is TRULY a joy! Thank you for posting.

  2. no rest for the weary August 3, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

    …and nobody got arrested. Yay!

  3. hineata August 3, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

    Oh just noticed this myself, am glad you found it too :-). What great fun!

  4. Jen (P.) August 3, 2014 at 10:44 pm #

    Was hoping I’d see this here 🙂

    “The boy meandered through Times Square and eventually ended up at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, where police officers found him and gave him yogurt.” – And evidently did NOT arrest his parents! So nice to know there’s some sanity left in this world.

  5. gap.runner August 4, 2014 at 2:47 am #

    It’s good to see that there is still some common sense in the world.

    A couple of anectodes…When I was a kid, we frequently had relatives come out from the East Coast to visit (I grew up in Los Angeles). One of the places we went was Disneyland. When I was about 12, and my brother 3, we went to Disneyland with some of my mother’s cousins. Somehow my brother wandered off and we looked for him. Even at age 3 he knew Disneyland like the back of his hand because he had already been there so many times. When we found him, he was sitting in the little square in front of the castle. He told Mom’s cousin, “I ran away from my dad and wanted to play here.” This was back in the early ’70s and nobody was arrested. Nobody even seemed concerned to see a 3-year-old boy by himself playing happily in the dirt. Fortunately, they did not have mobile phones back in the ’70s or my parents would have definitely been arrested for child neglect.

    Up until about 2 years ago, my husband volunteered with the on-base ski program. One year he had a group of kindergartners through 2nd graders. Two of the 1st grade boys decided to go down the expert slope by themselves and they left the group to do this. The kids are told where to go if they got separated from their group, but those two boys obviously ignored the instructions. After informing the program leader and other group leaders about the missing boys, there was a big search for them. They were found at the gondola station at the bottom of the hill, enjoying candy and hot chocolate that the German gondola workers gave them. The lesson the boys learned: do your own thing and get rewarded with candy and hot cocoa. Fortunately, neither my husband nor his co-instructor got in any trouble for letting the boys out of their sight for a few seconds. The fact that there was a designated place for kids to go if they got separated from their groups meant that the program leaders knew this could happen.

  6. jen August 4, 2014 at 6:46 am #

    Since my daughter started school a few years ago, they’ve been taking the kids on great field trips that are often hours away from home — tidepooling at the ocean, museum trips to Boston — I hope they are still taking the big kids on the overnight to Montreal when she is old enough. Typically she is the first kid to ask, “where do we meet if we get lost.” I think the chaperones appreciate this.

    @gap runner:
    We’ve been reinforcing this message since our daughter was little–and especially when we have other people’s kids in tow. Also, we always put a slip of paper in their pockets with our cell phone numbers. We’ve been doing this since our daughter was about 3 after one of her friends was put on the wrong bus from kindergarten by a teacher. She told the teacher is was the wrong bus but the teacher insisted it was correct. by the time the bus driver finished his route with one extra child, the boy was too frightened to say anything. Hopefully, even if our charges are struck mute, they can still manage to pull a slip of paper out of their pocket to hand to an adult.

  7. Jill August 4, 2014 at 7:34 am #

    Oh, but think of all the things that might have happened to him! He might have watched a street performer juggling or playing a musical instrument! He might have met another kid his age and made friends. He might have (and I shudder just thinking about it) gone into the Museum of Natural History and seen cool stuff.
    This little boy was lucky that none of those awful things happened to him, and he was safely reunited with his family.

  8. Jill August 4, 2014 at 7:38 am #

    And BTW, I guess all the kidnappers and child molesters that we’re always hearing are lurking everywhere must have been at a convention in Atlantic City that day, because here was a golden opportunity: a child walking around the city, all by himself, and nobody laid a finger on him.

  9. Dhewco August 4, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    In ultra-liberal New York…nobody got arrested? I hope those cops got penalized? Don’t they have a quota for reporting to Social Services? Lol…yeah, it must be an anomaly.

  10. Rick August 4, 2014 at 9:32 am #

    Great story made even better his name, Villavicencio,which means “city conquering”.

  11. tesyaa August 4, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    Reminds me of Ali Baba Bernstein, the classic children’s book character, who got separated from his mother on the subway at 34th Street and walked (almost) all the way home to the Upper West Side. My kids and I loved that book; I highly recommend it.

  12. BL August 4, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    The only thing about this that is newsworthy is that it’s considered newsworthy.

  13. Mike August 4, 2014 at 9:47 am #

    Fun! But unfortunately, the only reason no one was arrested was because the parents didn’t intentionally let him wander Central Park or Times Square alone. If they had left him alone and said they’d come back to get him in a few hours, someone would probably be in jail right now for child endangerment.

  14. Sharon Davids August 4, 2014 at 10:10 am #

    Unfortunately it would not happen in Washington DC. I see kids who need to walk right next to their parents so no one steals them. I have seen families yell at each other to cross streets and kids getting upset when they can’t go to McDonalds for the 10th day in a row.

    The kicker had to be a couple of years ago when I saw a young adult (probably in high school) refuse to open her own lunch because the chips bag was too hard for any human except for her mom to open. I wonder if her mom has to go an eat with her in the cafeteria at 10 in the morning.

  15. TRS August 4, 2014 at 10:19 am #

    Great that no one got arrested. I am sure it was the parents worst day when they could not find him – then their best day when they were reunited.

  16. tdr August 4, 2014 at 10:24 am #

    Wah, my whole comment got deleted. I won’t bother trying to replicate it….

    +1 to Rick on the “last name” comment —

  17. Havva August 4, 2014 at 10:34 am #

    @Sharon Davids,
    I’m going to have to challenge you on your assessment of DC. A few months back I was talking to my daughter’s teacher about DC and it’s lack of school busing (the students are given metro passes and mingle with commuters). Since she had more recent exposure to the system than I, I asked her about the child commuters and who was the youngest student she had seen commuting of late. She had recently encountered a 6 year old who was taking metro clear across town to get to a magnate school. Everyone knew about this arrangement, and the DC government was paying for her metro fare. Though my daughter’s teacher noted that she did feel nervous for the girl going clear across town with multiple transfers, but concluded that obviously the girl had been doing it fine for some time.

    I’m sure the behaviors you noted could be found in any city in the country. And I don’t really think that a whiny teen with complacent parents, and a few seeming helicopters who may be visiting from out of the city, out weighs a city that as a rule sends its students on public transportation.

  18. gap.runner August 4, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    My son did something similar recently. He came home from sleeping over at a friend’s house and asked if he could go with that friend and his family to Munich to see a movie. They were going to take the train, so he had to hurry to meet his friend and his family at the train station. What really happened was that he took the train to Munich with two friends (one was the kid who hosted the sleepover). The three boys spent a lot of time in the English Garden, had some chicken and pretzels, took the U-Bahn (subway) to the main tourist zone and wandered around, then took the train home.

    My husband and I knew that something was up when we asked about the movie and the response was that the parents backed out at the last minute. My son thought that we would have said no to going to Munich with his friends, so he made up the story about the family going to the movies. We told him that we think he’s mature enough to go to Munich with his friends without adult supervision. If he got separated from his friends, he knows how to ask someone to direct him to the train station (he is for all intents and purposes a native German speaker). He didn’t get off scot-free from his adventure–he did get punished for lying. To my husband and me the lying was a much bigger offense than the adventure. In fact, we were glad that he had fun and figured out how to get around the city. Needless to say, my son is looking forward to another trip to Munich with his pals.

  19. Mark Roulo August 4, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    Does the zoo in Central Park not have clearly defined boundaries? I’ve lost my kid in the Phoenix Zoo once, but he knew enough to not leave the zoo…

    I’m glad no one was arrested, but if I was the parent I’d expect my kid to have a good story for why he left the zoo.

  20. GeneGenie August 4, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    Oh bad things never happen to kids with parents who don’t keep track of them.

  21. lollipoplover August 4, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    He probably had a great time in NYC. The zoo, Central Park, Times Square, and his adventure only went downhill when he went to the bus terminal but at least they gave him a yogurt.

    The part of this story I have a hard time understanding- why did he leave the zoo? If he was retracing his steps, that would mean back through the monkeys, giraffes, snack stand, places he was IN the zoo. Leaving the zoo and going to Times Square wouldn’t be backtracking. It sounds like he really enjoyed his adventure and liked having freedom but I don’t see retracing his steps when he’s hopping from one completely different tourist attraction to another.

    Otherwise,loved the story and especially the enthusiasm of this kid. Personally, my kid would be grounded for a very long time if they pulled a stunt like this.

  22. J- August 4, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    There is nothing I can say that is wittier than this:

  23. forsythia August 4, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

    When our kids turned seven, we turned them loose alone at Storyland (park designed for kids in New Hampshire) with a walkie-talkie and a time and place to meet up.

    I did shadow them for a little bit to make sure that they were okay, but let them go about their business – riding the rides, spending their snack money, etc. They not only had a blast, they were treated like royalty by the (mostly Eastern European) staff running the rides! “So Refreshing” said one when we went back for another ride.

  24. NJNonna August 4, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    Hi there Lenore, I’m a first time commenter, I came here to see if you had written about this, if not I was going to tip you off! I also want to point out that this boy was very smart to go to the Port Authority terminal, being a resident of Union City that WAS the way home for him. I wonder if the family had traveled to the city by bus and his own sense of direction brought him back to the terminal when he realized he was lost.

    Anyway, I loved that he said it was the greatest day of his life and was able to find his way (almost) home on his own!

    One of my sons once took his bike on the PATH train from Jersey City to downtown Manhattan without permission. He was about 10 when he did that. Nothing bad happened, even though we were upset when we found out what he’d done. He had to call me because he couldn’t find the PATH station to get back home. We all survived and no one got arrested. This was around 1995.

  25. Sharon Davids August 4, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

    In my head I was comparing New York and New Jersey where I grew up and spent some time this past winter and fall with the public transportation in Washington DC.

    I did not see anyone clutching their elementary school kids in New York. Only near Madison Square Garden (and that was preschoolers) were kids and parents holding hands.

    In Washington DC I moved one step closer to a family of four on a metro platform to give another family more room. The mother glared at me until I turned away. I wanted to show her my cell phone and who I was coming home to and I did not steal children. In her mind everyone was out to get her. It happened last week but it has happened more often in the last several years.

  26. Lynn August 5, 2014 at 12:40 am #

    The kid’s quote was that it was the greatest day of his life because it was the first time he got to go to the police station! But still–cool story. Although if my kid left the zoo he’d be in BIG trouble.

  27. Dirk August 11, 2014 at 9:38 am #

    Here is the first sentence of the actual “news article” from the gawker blog…

    “Most kids would freak out if they were separated from their parents in a busy city like New York…”