All Together for Austin: "I love them, and I thank them"
WALKER COUNTY, GA. (WRCB) -- It's been two months since Lafayette's star athlete broke his neck diving into a swimming pool.
Since then, the community has rallied with prayer, donations, and support for Austin Whitten.
Thursday night, he returned to the sidelines to see his team scrimmage and to be honored by yet another group of students.
"I love being home, being with my teammates, just hanging out with them once again," Austin says.
Wearing Lafayette colors, #8 returned to the sidelines.
It's been two months since a swimming pool accident left Austin Whitten paralyzed.
"He wasn't down, his spirits were high," says Brian Whitten, Austin's dad. "Each day I keep waiting for him to break down, but he's not broke down."
The Whitten family has relied on their faith and their community.
First, a rally was held that filled Lafayette's football stadium with prayers and donations.
The Modern Woodmen of America matched local contributions.
And Thursday, Gordon Lee students, through bake sales and fundraisers, collected more than $3,500.
"We've been raising it since Monday, so it's just been a couple of days," says Kaitlyn Wilson, a senior.
"It really makes me feel good to know what I'm doing, along with my school, is helping someone else," says Courtney Ramey, another senior.
Brian Whitten continues to be amazed by the outpouring.
"From the least to the most, they are all the same, and they will not go unnoticed," says Brian Whitten.
"I couldn't ask for any better, any more than what they've done," Austin says. "I mean, it's just awesome what they have done."
The road to recovery continues for Austin, who will return to a spinal center in Atlanta.
"The therapists and everyone down at Shepherd are awesome," Austin says. "They keep pushing me, and I have to keep pushing myself to be back to the position I want to be."
Not giving up hope he will one day return to the field, Austin has this message for those who have helped in his healing, "I love them, and I thank them."
Doctors gave Austin only a one percent chance of walking again, but his family isn't giving up hope.
In a wheelchair or not, Austin plans on being on the sidelines when his Ramblers hit the field.