Four boys were walking home from school one September afternoon when they spotted a man lying in the middle of a trail. Instead of running home or back to school, the boys immediately walked to the man’s side, realizing he was injured as rivulets of blood poured from gashes on his head and scrapes on his body. One called 911 while the others attempted to revive the unconscious man.
After making the call, the foursome planned what to do, deciding two would go to the nearest streets to direct police and fire back to the injured man as the other two stayed by his side to keep him calm as he awoke, dazed and in pain from falling off of his longboard skateboard.
Joshua Smithwick, Elia Mata, John Wegendt and Aiden Cooper really didn’t think what they did was anything special.
But the adults around them believed otherwise.
The four were honored at recent Highland Village City Council meeting, receiving accolades for their bravery and quick thinking as well as Certificates of Merit from Highland Village Mayor Charlotte Wilcox.
Three of the boys are age 9, the fourth is 10.
As fourth and fifth graders at McAuliffe Elementary School , they walk home together every weekday afternoon along the winding trails that connect much of the surrounding neighborhood.
Known as the Woodside group, named for the area where they live, the boys say they are glad they were able to help Robert Rison, 19.
In a recount of the incident during the Sept. 23 meeting, residents and city officials were told of Joshua’s call to 911 at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 4.
“I was thinking to try and calm him down and get help,” Joshua said in a recent interview. He remembered an incident where a tent flipped at his sister’s soccer game and his Dad called 911. That experience came to mind while he and the others spotted the man on the trail, he said.
When police officers arrived on Woodside Drive, they found the four boys flagging them down from the inland trail. Eli had gone up the path to direct officers to the injured man while John went another direction toward Woodside next to the train tracks.
As officers walked toward them, they noticed an older teen-age man laying on the trail with numerous cuts and scrapes on his body and several head injuries.
The police dispatcher noted how calm Joshua was as he described the situation and shared instructions he was given to the other boys.
“The dispatcher said he was able to give good instructions to the boys … and all the boys did exactly as they were asked to do. It was a very warm day and, if the boys did not act in such a quick and responsible manner, the injuries to the male could have been more serious,” according to city council minutes.
“They planned it well,” said McAuliffe Elementary Principal Jennifer Mattingly. “Thank goodness they had cell phones.”
Rison, who has recovered from the two skull fractures and contusions to his brain, says he can’t thank the boys enough for their help.
“Knowing that they’re in elementary school and how well they planned together and to do something like that is awesome,” Rison said. “It shows there is no age limit to helping.”
Rison said he has chatted the boys since the accident though he does not recall much about what happened that September day except for what others have told him.
“I know I’m still alive,” he said. “Whatever they did, they did it right.”
The boys collectively agreed that the main lesson they took away from the experience was the need to wear a helmet – whether riding a bike or a skateboard.
And they are glad Rison is doing OK.
“It feels good to be one of those people who helped,” Aiden said. “I want to be a police officer.”