TAMPA — Hobbes the stuffed tiger went on an adventure at Tampa International Airport.
The plush toy, which belongs to 6-year-old Owen Lake, was left behind in the Tampa airport as Owen and his family traveled to Houston recently for a family member's high school graduation. His mother, Amanda Lake, reached out to the airport when her son learned the toy was missing and became distraught.
"Hobbes is one of a kind. He was made by hand by his aunt who lives in Houston," Lake said.
Airport staff found the toy, then decided to take his rescue a step farther.
Tony D'Aiuto, the airport operations center manager, took Hobbes on adventures all over the building. He photographed the stuffed animal at the air traffic control tower, indulging in some gelato, working out at the employee gym and hanging out with airport firefighters.
Hobbes even lounged at the Marriott pool and rode around on a luggage cart.
"I pitched this idea a couple of months ago after I saw a similar idea where someone took a stuffed lion around a museum," D'Aiuto said in a statement put out by the airport on Monday. He noted that the photos were taken during his lunch hour. "This seemed like the perfect opportunity."
D'Aiuto had a hardbound book made, thanks to a coupon code he had for Walgreens, and crafted a short story that explained Hobbes' airport adventure.
Owen was reunited with his toy when he and his family returned from Houston on a late-night flight Thursday. The toy was waiting for him, with the book, in the airport's lost and found.
Owen's mother was in tears when she saw the gift.
"When Owen asked for Hobbes on the plane, my husband and I looked at each other and our hearts sunk. We knew he was left behind," Lake said. "Owen really loves him. He's special, and we are so thankful for the airport and what they did."
Justine Griffin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @SunBizGriffin.