Seth Sanford faced a number of decisions in the early morning of Feb. 21 as he was heading to his job clearing snow off of buses.
Should he drive to work or should he just walk? It was cold and it had just snowed. It felt like it hadn’t stopped snowing because it was a few weeks after a blizzard had halted business, government, church and school in Waukesha.
Sanford, 19, a student at New Tribes Bible Institute decided to walk to work. He didn’t make it very far – he was at the corner of Arcadian and Greenfield avenues around 4:30 a.m. – when he saw someone he wasn’t expecting.
“I just looked forward up the sidewalk and saw this little kid standing there,” Sanford said. “… He was just standing there with a coat with pajama pants and boots.”
A 5-year-old boy told Sanford he woke up and realized no one was home, so he put on his coat and boots to look for his mom. The boy had wandered a few blocks from home and was outside in the 20-degree weather.
“He was really scared,” Sanford said. “He just looked terrified.”
Sanford was faced with another decision. Should he help the child out and be late for work or should he keep going on his way?
Sanford walked the child home. When they got home Sanford asked the child to go in and check to see if anyone was home. There wasn’t anyone home, so the 19-year-old called the Waukesha Police Department.
While officers were responding to the home, the boy’s mother came home. She had left the house for a brief moment to help someone who had driven a car into a ditch, Sanford said.
The police department took over from there, interviewed Sanford and sent him off to work. Then, this week, he came home to find a letter from the Waukesha Police Department in his mailbox.
He wasn’t expecting to be thanked. Sanford actually said he was scared at first that he may have unknowingly received a ticket.
Instead of a parking ticket, there was a letter of appreciation from Waukesha Police Chief Russell Jack.
“Your actions that day ensured the safety and wellbeing of the child and prevented what could have been a tragic outcome,” Jack said in the letter. “Thank you for your service to the community.”
Sanford still thinks back on that day and wonders what would have happened if he had driven to work or if he hadn’t stopped to help the boy. The mother could have returned home and panicked to find her son had woken up and left the house.
The boy would have continued wandering, getting more lost in the city. The road was busy and snowplows were driving through the area to help the child.
“Worse case he could have been out on the road and been hit by a car,” Sanford said. “… I just took him back home and was able to be there with him.”
LETTER OF APPRECIATION
On February 21, 2011 at 4:46am you were walking to work in 20 degree weather. You observed a small child walking around the intersection of Greenfield Ave and Arcadian Ave wearing only pajamas and a light jacket. You took the time to stop and care for the 5 year old child and determined he lived a few blocks away. You summoned the Police Department to the scene and assisted in helping to return the child to his family.
Your actions that day ensured the safety and wellbeing of the child and prevented what could have been a tragic outcome. Thank you for your service to the community.
Russell P. Jack
Chief of Police