When Sheree Risvold fell through a frozen pond near her Brooklyn Park home, she knew she would be OK for two reasons: The fire department was only a minute away, and two boys playing basketball nearby could — she hoped — call for help.
“I heard the ice start to crack and I knew I was probably going to fall in,” she said. “But as it was happening, I was like, ‘This can’t be happening.’ ”
The 34-year-old mother of three often finds herself chasing after one of her 5-year-old twins, Jameson, who has autism and is fascinated by water. That’s what happened Sunday at Brook Oaks Park when Jameson took off running for the pond after watching Emerson and Everett Olson on the basketball court.
The 5-year-old was cheering the brothers on as they played, but before long his family and emergency responders would be applauding the boys for leaping into action.
Risvold said she broke through the ice after following Jameson out on it. “Once I went through he saw me in the water and thought I was swimming, so he came back to me,” she said. “He doesn’t recognize danger like that. He thought we were having an adventure the whole time.”
The Olson boys said they typically don’t play at Brook Oaks. But Sunday they decided to walk there from their house in Brooklyn Park to shoot some hoops.
When Jameson’s sisters, his 5-year-old twin Magdalena and 2-year-old Imogen, ran to the brothers and said their mother needed help, they responded instantly.
“I ran as fast as I could,” said Emerson, 14.
Emerson, who wants to be a doctor, saw Risvold in the water and knew he needed to stay calm: “I didn’t want to make the situation worse.” He dialed 911 first and then Risvold’s husband, Matthew.
“As I was doing all of this, Everett was holding the little boy,” Emerson said of his 11-year-old brother.
Risvold said the shock of the freezing water initially prevented her from realizing she could stand up, but that didn’t make escaping any easier. Jameson came after her and she quickly scooted him out of the water, but she was unable to move herself when her boots filled with water. Brooklyn Park firefighters and deputies with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office quickly arrived and rescued her.
“I’m grateful everyone was there at the right time and the right place,” she said.
Risvold and her son went to the hospital as a precaution. She didn’t get hypothermia, she said, and Jameson is “still silly and wild and unbothered.”
Emerson and Everett’s mom, Korissa Olson, went to the park with her husband, Darren, after Emerson called her. They found the boys amid the police cars, a fire truck and ambulance, trying to make sense of what had happened.
“I was emotional because of the divine intervention and how everything worked together,” she said. “They were the only two boys in the park. They were put there for a purpose.
“With the coronavirus, people are scared and anxious, and this is a good story with a happy ending that’s so encouraging. … I’m thankful my boys were able to stay cool under pressure.”
Emerson, a ninth-grader in the health science magnet program at Osseo Senior High School, and Everett, a fifth-grader at Fernbrook Elementary in Maple Grove, won praise from first responders for helping Risvold and her children. The Sheriff’s Office said it has nominated them for life-saving awards.
“They want these boys to be recognized,” Risvold said. “They did a good thing by coming and helping us. To encourage this type of behavior is important.”