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Tampa International Airport takes a boy’s lost toy on a memorable adventure

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Losing anything in the airport is a headache. Tampa International Airport is big, sprawling and traversed by travelers coming and going by the hour. So when a family reported losing their 6-year- old son’s favorite stuffed animal, the call was frantic.

According to Tampa International Airport, Amanda Lake called the airport’s lost and found department Saturday morning hoping against all odds her son Owen’s stuffed tiger, Hobbes, had been found.

Lake told the person on the phone her son was distraught. That prompted an entire team of airport employees to snap into action. Departments all across the airport were put on the lookout for Hobbes.

Eventually a crew of janitors found the homemade stuffed tiger in a play area in the terminal where the family had been waiting for their flight. Hobbes, now found, just had to wait for his owner to return from Houston to retrieve him.

But the good news doesn’t stop there and the story has now gone viral.

Airport Operations Center manager Tony D’Auito decided to take photographs of Hobbes on an adventure. This way when little Owen returned home he would delight in knowing his friend had a good time while he was away.

D’Auito snapped shots, all during his lunch hour, of Hobbes in various places – looking out over air traffic control, working out, lounging in a poolside hammock, playing Jenga in the USO, buying gelato and even taking a ride in a luggage cart.

Photos of the adventure on Tampa International Airport’s Facebook page have gotten more than 20,000 likes shared nearly 9,000 times.

D’Auito then used a coupon he had to put the photos into a bound book complete with a storyline. He took the book to lost and found with Hobbes, where the trinket and the little boy’s friend would wait.

According to TIA, Owen’s mother cried when she saw the book.

“It was very, very sweet,” Lake told airport staff. “We already told him over and over that Hobbes was on an adventure so it was nice to get back and show him that Hobbes really had been on an adventure.”

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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