When Tabor junior Dakota Vaughn got up the morning of March 16, he had no idea he was about to become a hero in many people’s eyes.
He was driving through Walton on his way back to Hillsboro from Wichita later that day when he saw a toddler run across the highway in front of a semi truck.
Vaughn watched as the 3-year-old boy ran to the railroad tracks and started walking down them.
Vaughn said he pulled off the road, jumped out of his truck, and yelled to the child. The child was frightened, so he pulled a baseball mitt out of his truck and offered it to the boy.
“Come here. I’ll show you my baseball mitt,” he said.
That got the boy’s attention, Vaughn said. He warily came to the truck. Vaughn gave him the mitt.
“I asked him his name and who his parents were, but he didn’t say anything,” Vaughn said. “I strapped him in my vehicle to take him to his parents, and he started to cry a little bit. ‘It’s OK, it’s OK, everything is going to be OK,’ I told him.”
Vaughn drove across the highway into a parking lot and talked to the first man he saw.
“Is this your child?” he asked.
“No,” the man said. That’s when he decided to call 911.
Vaughn kept the truck warm while they waited for a Harvey County sheriff’s deputy to arrive.
“I asked him if he was hungry, but he just stared at the baseball mitt and wouldn’t talk,” he said. “I offered him some chips, but he wouldn’t take them. He was traumatized, so I laid the chips on the console.”
When the deputy arrived, Vaughn got out of the truck. Glancing back, he saw the child had grabbed the chips and was eating them.
While Vaughn was giving the sheriff his personal information, the child’s father showed up. He said his 8-year-old daughter had called 911 to report the missing 3-year-old, whose name was William.
“I opened the passenger door, and William’s eyes lit up when he saw his father, and he smiled,” Vaughn said. “The father thanked me, and I drove off.”
Vaughn didn’t think his actions were extraordinary.
“What I did wasn’t heroic, it was just something that had to be done,” he said. “I’m glad I was there to help. I hope others will be inspired by my story to seek out opportunities to help others, not necessarily for fame, but out of the kindness of their hearts.”