Splash pad organizers are Community Members of the Month

Brainerd moms Emily Rolfson and Meta Mandich are the June Community Members of the Month.

Mayor shakes hands with two people
Brainerd Mayor Dave Badeaux shakes hands with Emily Rolfson, left, and Meta Mandich after presenting them with Community Member of the Month awards Monday, June 20, 2022.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — After seven long years of work and nearly a month of seeing the fruits of their labor, two Brainerd moms are again in the spotlight for their work on bringing a splash pad to Brainerd.

Emily Rolfson and Meta Mandich are Brainerd’s June Community Members of the Month. Mayor Dave Badeaux recognized them during the City Council meeting Monday, June 20, highlighting their achievement of raising enough money to build the splash pad that opened last month in Memorial Park in northeast Brainerd.

Badeaux said the award was a way for the council, which contributed $100,000 to the effort, to officially and publicly thank the women for their work.

Children play in the water at the splashpad.
Tegan Bonde shoots water at Chase Roberts Thursday, May 26, 2022, at the grand opening of the Memorial Park splash pad.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“The splash pad was something that both Emily and Meta saw as something they would like to see in the community, and then you set to work in getting it done, and you realized that sometimes that can be a long journey, and sometimes it can be a frustrating journey,” Badeaux said. “And it was fun to work with you guys. It was fun to be able to see behind the scenes and have conversations to talk about, you know, the hurdles and the struggles and where do we go next and what do we do and how do we continue to move forward when things sometimes feel like you’re up against the wall? And for me it was so satisfying watching you guys take those last struggles at the end and get to the point where we are today, which is kids playing in water.”

As Memorial Park means a lot to Badeaux, who grew up in northeast Brainerd, he said it is great to now drive past what tends to be an underutilized park and see it packed with people.


“And I’m sure that will continue to be the case on these super hot days,” he said. “But I think that what we’re able to see is a couple citizens, a couple community members, take a project that they’re really interested in seeing happen and then do the work to get it done.”

Badeaux presented Rolfson and Mandich with certificates thanking them for their “dedication to the children of the city of Brainerd” through their leadership in the splash pad project.

Rolfson thanked the council for their contribution to the splash, saying it would not have happened without their last push at the end.

She also paid homage to former City Council President Bonnie Cumberland, who also served as her high school marketing teacher. Rolfson said Cumberland, who died in 2014, had wise words for her during school when she pushed for a youth center in Brainerd but could not make the idea happen.

“One of the things she told me was, ‘If you ever have a goal, and if you ever have a plan, never ever give up.’ So to stand here today and to see her bench as I’m passing, is so important to me, and it’s such an accomplishment,” Roflson said, referring to Cumberland’s memorial bench that sits outside City Hall. “And this whole project has really humbled me from my high school years to today, so I just want to thank you guys for giving us that one last push. That was really important.”

The splash pad is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily through Labor Day, or weather permitting.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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