Li Jingzhi quit her job to search for her 2-year-old son after he was abducted from a hotel near their home in Xian, the capital of China's Shaanxi province, in 1988. She put up more than 100,000 flyers in 10 provinces and municipalities, and when that didn't work, she joined a volunteer group, eventually helping to reunite 29 lost or missing children with their families. But her day was still to come. And on Mother's Day, Li received "the best gift I have ever got," per the BBC. Police in April had learned about a boy of the correct age who'd been sold to a childless couple in Mianyang, Sichuan province—about 370 miles from the home of Li and her husband, Mao Zhenjing—for 6,000 yuan, or $845 in today's dollars, reports the Guardian. Facial recognition was used to trace the man, who was confirmed as Mao Yin through a DNA test, per CNN.
Renamed Gu Ningning, the 34-year-old home decorator plans to spend several days with his biological parents, whom he met at a police news conference in Xian on Monday, per the BBC. An emotional video published by the South China Morning Post shows Gu running into the waiting arms of Li, whom he'd previously seen on TV, pleading for the return of her son. Mao joins in the hug as tears stream down both parents' faces. He'd been taking his son home from nursery school on Oct. 17, 1988, when they stopped at a hotel so the toddler could get a drink of water. The boy vanished as his father was attempting to cool the hot water he'd been offered. "I would like to thank the tens of thousands of people who helped us," Li says, per the Guardian. "I can't believe that after helping 29 missing children find their families, I am able to find my own son." (Read more uplifting news stories.)