AURORA - A 4-year-old boy is back home for the first time in more than seven months.
Paralyzed from the neck down after a car crash this summer, Gavyn Wilkens was able to leave the hospital on Tuesday afternoon.
Friends, neighbors, and complete strangers gave the family a surprise home makeover.
"They have no idea. I'm really excited for them to come home. They've been in the hospital for 225 days," close friend Heather Maloney said.
It's been seven-and-a-half months since the moment that changed everything.
Aimee Wilkens was driving her son Gavyn home from daycare on July 2, 2012. Like so many young children, Gavyn unbuckled the chest clip on his car seat.
Wilkens thinks she was looking in the mirror trying to get Gavyn to buckle up, when her car slammed into the back of an RTD bus.
Wilkens received a careless driving citation from police. She admits to speeding.
"I think about that a lot. Life has a way of changing every second," Wilkens said.
Selena Silva, an injury prevention education coordinator with Children's Hospital Colorado, said children are often able to undo the straps on car seats.
"Unbuckling the chest clip harness is incredibly common. It's an appropriate behavior for a 3-year-old. We need to address that. It's one of those battles that we have to choose as parents since we are often faced with which battle we pick," Silva said.
The crash left Gavyn paralyzed from the neck down. Progress can feel painfully slow but so far Gavyn has amazed his doctors.
His parents still don't know if he'll ever regain movement below his neck, but they have hope.
They also want to remind other parents to constantly reinforce to their kids the importance of being buckled up.
"Remember everything about your kids, every hug, every kiss. Because you never know when you might not get it anymore," Wilkens said.
The Wilkens' house could no longer accommodate the 4-year-old's medical needs.
Friends like Maloney decided to help out.
"I'm just really excited to see Gavyn's face when he sees it, especially his new room. Because it's amazing," Maloney said.
They organized a small army of volunteers, including contractor Scott Lang.
"We're just excited to get him home," Lang said. "We basically turned around and did the entire house for them. Everything is pretty much new."
The family thought only Gavyn's room would be renovated but instead they received a new roof, furniture appliances, and floors.
"We've taken two bedrooms and turned it into one giant one with a handicap accessible bathroom," Lang said.
Lang estimates the total value of donated supplies and volunteer hours was $70,000.
Gavyn's room was transformed into a comic book lover's paradise, with characters from the Avengers and unique blue lighting.
"It filled my heart with joy just seeing him. You could see the happiness in him," Lang said.
After 225 days in the hospital, Gavyn has a beautiful new space to call home.
"This is more than we could have ever expected. So thank you so much," Wilkens told volunteers before inviting them into her newly remodeled home.
For more information about helping the family visit: http://www.friendsforgavyn.com/
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