SELLERSVILLE — Ashley Tessier calls Jonathan Stanwood a guardian angel.
"You're forever part of our heart," she told him after Perkasie Borough Police Department presented Stanwood with a Citizen Award at the March 9 Sellersville Borough Council meeting.
Stanwood, a Philadelphia resident, was driving in the area of Park Avenue and Main Street, Sellersville, when he saw a small child running by himself the night of Dec. 29, 2019, Perkasie's Acting Police Chief Russ Closs said during the presentation. Stanwood stopped and tried to talk to the child, who continued on and went into the Perkiomen Creek, Closs said.
"You then entered the creek yourself and retrieved the child," Closs said.
"Your actions that night may seem insignificant and routine, but your actions may have saved the life of a small child," Closs said. "Too often incidents like this end in tragedy. We are thankful you were there."
James, the five-year-old child Stanwood pulled from the creek, is autistic, Ashley Tessier, his mother, said.
The incident happened in a few minutes time during a Christmas celebration at her in-laws, she said. She took Christmas presents to the car while James remained inside with other family members, but James then left without being noticed, she said.
"I walked back in there and asked where he was and just like that we realized he was gone," Tessier said. "We all ran different directions. We're yelling for him."
Outside, it was dark and cold, she said.
"The first thing I thought was water," Tessier said. "He loves water. He loves the pool, the ocean, everything."
Running towards the creek, she saw police and other people as she arrived just after James had been taken from the creek, she said.
"It's just amazing because he doesn't realize what he did, so he was just so happy to see Mom and he was hanging out," with the group of people, she said.
The family has alarms, monitors and locks at their own home to make sure James can't leave without it being noticed, she said.
James, who is the oldest of four children in the family, with a fifth due in June, will be starting kindergarten in the Upper Perkiomen School District in the fall and currently is in Easter Seals programs, Tessier said.
She said he is very active.
"He's very sweet, but he's a handful," she said.
Stanwood was there at just the right time, she said.
"God intervened on James' behalf," Tessier said. "James, I think, has a special place in Heaven."
A lot of people would have just walked by, not wanting to get involved, she said.
"I'm just thankful that he [Stanwood] didn't," she said.
"I just hope it opens up people to realizing that when you see something, to act," Tessier said.