(AP) - An autistic man whose disappearance sparked a massive search was found alive on Sunday, seven days after he vanished from a northwest Wisconsin camp for developmentally disabled adults.
Keith Kennedy, 25, of Shoreview, Minn., was found about 7 p.m., weakened but safe.
In a statement released by the hospital, Kennedy is "stable and improving. He is at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview in the intensive care unit."
"He was dehydrated, his body temperature was a little low, lots of bug bites, of course," said Cindi Throngard, a volunteer who staffed phone lines set up to coordinate the search. "I can tell you, we're totally elated right now. We're just starting to breath again."
Searchers were worried that Kennedy might suffer a medical emergency without the anti-rejection drugs he has taken since having a kidney transplant in 1995. He was stabilized Sunday and flown to the University of Minnesota Hospital in the Twin Cities.
Kennedy was conscious and alert when a St. Paul firefighter found him about a mile from the camp, in a wooded area inaccessible by vehicles, Burnett County Sheriff Dean Roland said.
Kennedy was lying next to a creek bed on swampy ground, his body covered in ticks and mosquito bites.
Based on evidence of matted grass in the area, it appeared Kennedy had been there for two or three days, Roland said.
Searchers had passed by the area at least twice but visibilty was severely hampered by dense growth of tall grass, thistles and briars.
"That's some very, very tough terrain," Roland said. "We'll probably never know how he survived but I'll tell you, this Keith Kennedy is one tough kid."
Kennedy's parents told the sheriff their son had enough awareness to eat vegetation that tastes good, and Roland surmised that Kennedy drank from the nearby creek.
Kennedy vanished June 15 from the Trade Lake Camp in Grantsburg, where he was one of 13 campers who arrived for the week. The campers had just been given their nighttime snacks and were retiring for the evening when Kennedy disappeared, Throngard said.
Staffers speculate that Kennedy, who had a well-known fondness for popcorn, snuck back to the cafeteria to get more, and then failed to return to his cabin because he was afraid of getting in trouble, Throngard said.
Officials may never know what was going through his mind because he can only speak four words.
Kennedy was fortunate that weather conditions were comfortable, Throngard said. With the exception of two brief rain showers, temperatures were between 75 and 80 degrees all week.
Hundreds of volunteers had helped scour an area of at least 14 square miles, a search that included helicopters and boaters.
As the days passed, searchers never gave up hope, Throngard said.
"The volunteers that came every day came with the attitude that today's going to be the day," she said. "His parents were here every day. They brought that same attitude and it was just contagious."
The camp houses a maximum of 14 campers, who stay for a week at a time. Kennedy stayed at the camp two other years and never did anything to make staffers think he might wander away, Throngard said.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)