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A Brief Reprieve

After a fire destroyed their home, local family buoyed by support from community

by Devin Lowe /

Polsfut Family Takes in Wild Game

Polsfut Family Takes in Wild Game

The Polsfut family got an experience like no other as they took in the Wild vs Red Wings game after suffering a terrible tragedy weeks earlier

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ST. PAUL -- Dean and Julie Polsfut were reliving a magical night with their son James when they got the call.

James Polsfut, 12, and his fellow Andover Huskies had just skated in a Wild Youth Hockey Spotlight game in Rogers, arriving at the rink to cheers from parents and onlookers and Wild gear in their locker stalls. Nordy fist-bumped them as they lined up for the Star-Spangled Banner, sung by Wild anthemist James Bohn.

A full house cheered them on from puck drop to the final goal horn.

"That whole night was amazing," Julie said. "Just the cameras and the lights and the way they made the kids feel so special was just beyond words."

But on the way home, a neighbor phoned Julie with an emergency: The Polsfuts' house was ablaze.

Dean raced the family home. With his older son Erik, 15, at baseball practice, he dropped Julie and James off near the end of their street so they wouldn't have to see the damage. The couple thought that maybe the fire was small, that their house would stand intact in the morning. Dean arrived to find the fire trucks and police cars lining their block.

"At first I thought, 'OK, they've got it under control.' But they were really running fast and working hard," Dean said. "All of a sudden, one of those cherry pickers went over to the top of the house and they were sawing holes into the ceiling, and that's when the flames really shot out."

By morning, the Polsfut home was gone, along with their one-year-old golden retriever, Ace.

"Our sons, that was their best friend," Dean said.

"This can't be happening, this can't be happening," Julie said. "I think I just said that over and over again."

The Polsfuts temporarily moved into a hotel, then a townhouse, and neighbors rallied around them, giving them food, clothes and monetary donations through a GoFundMe page set up by a family friend. It wasn't long before a representative from the Minnesota Wild emailed Julie: Would the family want to come to a Wild game?

There was something else, too. Would the Polsfut boys want to meet goaltender Devan Dubnyk?

She called Dean after reading the email and explained the situation through tears.

"It was just amazing. I couldn't believe it. It was out of the blue; I was just checking my email," Julie said. "Why us? Why us? Why are we so special?"

Dean and Julie broke the news to James and Erik before Sunday's game against Detroit over lunch with Wes Walz, Mike Greenlay and Anthony LaPanta. James' eyes widened and his mouth popped open, Dean said, and Erik's reaction was priceless to Julie.

"Our oldest has not smiled a lot since this happened," Julie said. "That was probably the first smile I've seen on his face."

They watched James Bohn sing the anthem and Nordy bang on his drum, and together, they cheered the Wild to a 6-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. After the game, the Polsfut boys, clutching their brand-new Dubnyk jerseys, met their hero in person, along with much of the Minnesota locker room. 

The Polsfuts' story hit home for Dubnyk, who has two young sons of his own.

"I can't even imagine what they're going through," Dubnyk said. "You can never fix something like that, but any time you can take their mind off it... they're rebuilding their entire life right now. Anything I can do to take their brains away from it for a little while is a little bit of help."

More than anything, Dean and Julie have been blown away by the outpouring of support they've received from the Andover community. Their GoFundMe page has exceeded its $10,000 goal by over $7,000.

From driving their kids to practices and pledging to replace James and Erik's sports equipment to cooking them food and putting warm clothes on their backs, friends, neighbors and strangers have helped the Polsfuts through one of the toughest situations they've ever faced. They're overwhelmed with gratitude, unable at times to find enough words to thank everyone around them.

They say that losing everything has taught them what giving looks like and how deeply it can impact those around you.

"Out of the worst time in our lives, we're seeing the best in people," Dean said. "So in a way, we still feel like we're very blessed."

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