A Web search of “boy who sleeps outside,” elicits 3.98 million Google results. The first page is all Rudy Hummel.

In sleeping outside for a year, ending Friday night in his treehouse, the Hermantown 17-year-old has, in the words of his father, Mark Hummel, “pulled us out into a bigger world.”

“I want to be like you when I grow up,” the dad said, planting his arm around Rudy. “Son, I’m so proud of you.”

He endured the second-coldest winter on record, not to mention a hotel sprinkler system.

And in stringing together 365 consecutive nights of sleeping outside, Hummel became a beacon of inspiration for both those around him and people all over the world.

“It helped to energize us in our work,” said Daryl Yankee, executive director of Western Lake Superior Habitat for Humanity, which joined Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory as recipients of Hummel’s fundraising efforts. Hummel raised $6,000 to share between the organizations.

Yankee is one of several adults around Hummel who marveled at the veteran Boy Scout’s ability to empathize with others so early into his yearlong journey.

“It didn’t take him long to start thinking about his experience as it relates to other people,” Yankee said, “and how they don’t always have a choice.”

The triangular tree platform that originally inspired Hummel is about 7 feet off the ground. It sat around unused for more than a year after its construction until Hummel decided he would sleep on it through the summer of 2013.

“He wanted to make sure he used it,” said Gail Johnejack, Hummel’s mother and Mark’s wife.

By the time the experience grew into a yearlong goal for the soon-to-be Hermantown High School senior, it had begun to transform the family.

“All three of them have changed,” Rob Karwath said in speaking about Rudy and his parents. “They talk about things differently now.”

Karwath is the president and spokesperson for North Coast Communications, a Duluth media relations firm the family brought on board to help manage the outside demands on Hummel’s time. The family thanked Karwath for helping to keep a trending story from overtaking Hummel’s life. They thanked News Tribune columnist Sam Cook for sharing a story that went on to draw international attention.  

It became normal during the past year for Hummel to walk out the back door at bedtime and climb a painter’s ladder onto the tree platform - home to a modest tent. In winter, he crawled through a snow tunnel to access the bed of hay inside his quinzhee. His mother only checked on him one time. It was during the coldest night (27 degrees below zero). She recalled that some mornings “I didn’t breathe right” till she could see Hummel had come inside.  

“We had an agreement: if he started to shiver he would come in, and he never did,” Johnejack said. “I trusted him.”    

Their place along Lavaque Junction Road has welcomed satellite television trucks belonging to media outlets like CNN, USA Today, the Twin Cities’ KARE-TV and more.  

But Tuesday’s culmination of Hummel’s journey ended with an intimate celebration.

With a cake, some friends and a lot of kind words, Hummel gave one promise that he’d sleep in his bed Saturday night.

“After that,” he said. “Who knows?”

He also thanked a lot of people, including two of his scouting leaders, Julie and Jim Belden.

“I couldn’t have done any of this without you guys,” Hummel said to the couple.

Julie Belden has been camping with Hummel many times. Throughout his journey, Hummel never took the easy way out, she said, explaining that on one shared winter retreat he made a quinzhee from scratch while others slept in cabins.

“He’s always been a person who sets a goal and sees it through,” said Julie Belden, who helped add the name “Rudy Hummel” on an outdoor sleeping badge local Boy Scouts can earn. “We want our troops to learn from him for a long time.”