HOOPER -- Proud parents watched as five Hooper Elementary School sixth-grade girls were presented with a Citizens Award for recently finding a 6-year-old boy who had been missing for hours.
Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson, Lt. John Morrow, Undersheriff Kevin McLeod, Sgt. Jason Talbot and Deputy Cortney Ryan, the school's resource officer, presented the award. Mayor Korry Green was also present.
"It is with great pride that I present Marisa Briseno, Olivia Fox, Lexi Johnson, Madison Valdez and Madison Paul with an award for their outstanding work in helping this scary situation come to a successful end," Thompson said. "These young ladies should be recognized for their dedication to their community and friends."
The girls said they were a little nervous being up in front of their school to receive the award, because they didn't think finding Ben was such a serious or great thing for them to do -- they only wanted to help.
"It was really cool to find Ben, and I didn't have any idea it would turn into this," Lexi said. "It was great."
Ryan said the girls didn't know just how much of a service they did that day. "Without the efforts of these four young girls, the search for Ben could have lasted a lot longer, which would have been very stressful for the family and also the community."
The incident started April 3, when deputies were dispatched to a Hooper home on a report of a missing child, Ben Mooney. Ben, 6, attends afternoon kindergarten at Hooper Elementary, and around 10:30 that morning, he had gone outside to play. But his father couldn't find him when it was time to get ready.
Ryan said family and neighbors searched for two hours before calling the sheriff's office. Within 20 minutes, the sheriff, one lieutenant, six deputies, five detectives and one emergency manager were at the scene, along with a Weber County dispatcher from the Special Ops Center.
"We also sent out a ... reverse-911 program that sends out a missing-child alert to every home within a 1 1/2-mile radius of the child's home," Thompson said. "This alert was sent to 2,266 homes."
As he was combing the area, Ryan ran into the girls walking home from school. He recognized Marisa, Ben's sister, as one of his NOVA -- for Nurturing, Opportunity, Value and Accountability -- students. The girls had been told Ben was missing and were near tears. They volunteered to help.
Ryan told the girls to go to their homes and search any place they thought Ben could be.
Within 20 minutes, the girls had found Ben under a deck in Madison's backyard.
Ben told the girls he hid because he thought he was in trouble. And when he saw all the deputies and neighbors, he hunkered down under the deck of Madison's house.
Only when he saw his sister and her friends did he dare to come out.
Olivia said, "We were there at the right time, and it was our opportunity to help. ... I hope I can do it again!"
Marissa agreed. "This was awesome, and because of this, I want to be a rescuer myself someday. ... It is a great feeling."