<---- Add your photos from Kerwin's Benefit or throwing the first pitch Thursday
Just four months ago Kerwin Hackett emerged from a coma, unable to walk or even talk.
On Saturday he was helping his fellow eighth graders wash cars to help his family pay daunting medical bills from hospitals in South Korea — where Kerwin was in a skiing accident Dec. 30 during winter break — and at Children's Hospital in Milwaukee, where he was transferred on a medic-assisted flight Feb. 24.
Tonight, from 6 to 9, the benefit will continue with an event open to the public at Pilgrim Park. There will be a DJ and dance, silent auction with a variety of goodies, raffle, pizzas, T-shirt sale and more.
And Kerwin will likely be dancing right there with his friends.
As Kerwin puts it: "I'm pretty dang lucky."
His father agrees.
Kerwin's youth was probably a big factor is his survival and recovery. Neurologists said that if Kerwin's father had been the one who hit a bump on the ski hill, flew in the air and crashed onto his helmeted head, he would probably be dead or at least brain-dead.
Family overwhelmed by kindness of strangers
"It's unbelievable, it's overwhelming," Nathan Hackett said of the community support for his family. "There are so many kind people. It's very humbling... that people we don't even know are helping because they know what it's like to love a child."
Love and faith helped Nathan, his wife Kyoung and their other son Skie, 28, get through those first four weeks in South Korea when Kerwin in a coma.
Doctors started therapy "when he was semi-conscious, they called it stuperous, just working the muscles, using tilt tables," his father said.
On Feb. 5, he took his first 10 steps with help of his two Korean aunts.
The next day, he was talking.
Nick Davies, who has known Kerwin since kindergarten at , said his best friend couldn't speak well when he first saw him at Children's Hospital. He would repeat what others said and repeat himself. But he was working hard on getting better.
"Now we play frisbee and catch," Nick said.
Frustrated he can't pitch baseball
Kerwin is frustrated he hasn't been able to return to pitching for the select Badger baseball team. He did get to throw out the first pitch at a Little League game Thursday night at Mitchell Park.
But his vision problems from an orbital fracture — which will require a second surgery in July — prevent him from safely returning to league play.
Nonetheless, his mood is buoyant. He was seen joking around his friends at the car wash, putting a towel on their heads and spraying water.
"He's really good-natured to begin with and he hasn't lost it," his father said.
He has a long road yet, with surgery and physical and speech therapy. Kerwin returned to school April 2 for three hours a day. That's increased by about 45 minutes and he hopes to be full-time again next fall. He probably will have special tutoring and/or summer school before his third grade starts.
Jacob Jahnke and Nick Davies were among some 40 students who volunteered to wash cars from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Cars were already lined up by 9:30 and there often was a line of vehicles. At least once it wrapped around the back of the school to the front.
"It got out of control," laughed Sara Davies, Nick's mom, who helped organize the event.
"It's absolutely wonderful — the support of this community is just amazing," she said.
Local businesses stepped up support
, 17000 W. Bluemound Rd., heard about Kerwin via a Fox 6 News report and dropped off 40 noodles entrees to feed the student volunteers. Schwan's fundraising handed out ice cream cones and donated 20 percent of proceeds. Colonel's Kettle Corn in West Allis was there, setting aside 50 percent of sales for the benefit fund.
Other families who helped the Davies family make the benefit a success: the Mandelas, Plavsics and Livingstons.
"How do you thank someone for that?" Sara Davies asked.
Maybe seeing the smile on Kerwin's face was thanks enough.