FORT MILL -- Fort Mill-area students and school staff have donated thousands of dollars to help Connor McKemey.
Last week, a Fort Mill High School fundraiser, Coins for Connor, netted $5,641 to help the Tega Cay 13-year-old, who suffered burns on more than 85 percent of his body after an outdoor fireplace erupted in December.
"Wow! That's amazing," said Connor's mom, Karin McKemey, as she sat in a waiting room Monday at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Ga. "I'm going to cry."
Students and staff raised the money during a four-day period that ended Friday. Later that evening, during a basketball game, Nation Ford High School donated a check for about $1,500 to help Connor. Both donations floored McKemey.
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"It's overwhelming," she said. "I shouldn't be surprised, but I am. We have such a great community. They're just amazing."
The original Coins for Connor campaign was started in Baxter Village by resident Paige Williams. She said other neighborhoods joined in and by Jan. 24, approximately $12,700 was raised with more coming in.
Doctors recently took Connor off a ventilator and feeding tube, allowing him to speak to his family for the first time since the accident. He sat on the side of his hospital bed and tried some food, McKemey said.
"We've had a rough 30 hours," said McKemey, who added that Connor's body initially rejected food. "He was not able to hold down anything for 48 hours so they had to redo the feeding tube."
Connor, on Sunday night, held down food via the feeding tube, she said.
"He kinda took a dip, but we've turned a corner," she said Monday. "We were able to give him a couple of sips of apple juice this morning. We have to take it really slow with him."
Connor has had more than a dozen surgeries and is facing a long recovery that includes a skin grafting surgery later this month for both lower legs and feet. Still, his recent progress, coupled with the donations, has been a lot to absorb for his mom, who also was injured in the fire.
"I can't even wrap my mind around it all," she said.
"I can't help but feel incredibly blessed."