It pays to play in the dirt--at least Mark Pettit thinks so.

“People lose their wedding bands and I recover those and return those,” said Mark. “The stuff I like finding is anything I can return.”

The avid metal detecting buff has been searching the ground across Florida for years. His hobby morphed into a passion around the time he found his first few trinkets.

“They have a story to tell,” he said as he gazed at a table full of pre-1900 coins, diamond rings, and railroad spikes.

The thing he’s most proud of finding is Dylan.

“It’s really hard to explain the feeling,” said Mark as he watched the 17-year-old pace a playground with a metal detector in his hand. “Getting somebody else involved in the hobby, it just brings a smile to your face. This is awesome.”

Dylan Ciesla has autism. He stumbled across Pettit’s Facebook photos of items he’d dug up using his metal detector. The pictures sparked an interest in Dylan.

“Every time we’d go to the beach we’d go on morning walks and he’d always follow the people with the metal detectors around,” said Dylan's mom, Lynn.

Now, the duo detects together.

“It’s a better feeling for me to watch him,” said Mark. “I can’t explain it. Just, pure joy. Pure joy to see him smiling.”

Dylan is using a detector that he got from Mark. The elder treasure hunter had a starter unit he wasn’t using. It was perfect for someone just beginning to learn the art of metal detecting, like Dylan.

“I find treasure!” the teen said with a smile when asked why he loves the hobby.

It’s the same reason Mark started all those years ago.

“It’s just unearthing history. There is something about it. It just gets you hooked.”

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