From their hearts: Aimee Copeland's hometown gives her $19,000

7:21 AM, Jul 10, 2012   |    comments
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SNELLVILLE, Ga. -- Monday night, Aimee Copeland's hometown of Snellville gave her a check for $19,000, from their hearts.

It's the money raised during a weekend benefit concert the city held last month.

Aimee's neighbors and friends are trying to help her pay her massive medical bills, as she fights the effects of a flesh-eating bacterial infection. She contracted it this past spring when she fell into the Little Tallapoosa during an outing with friends near the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, where she was attending graduate school.

Aimee's father and sister, Andy and Paige Copeland, walked into Monday night's City Council meeting not knowing what to expect.

They have been receiving a lot of get-well cards for Aimee, cards that have moved them all to tears of gratitude.

But the one presented to them at the beginning of the council meeting was one very big get-well card.

City Council members and the volunteers who organized last month's benefit concert gathered in the front of the meeting room holding one of those giant, ceremonial checks -- which was covered so Andy and Paige could not see the amount, at first.

Paige wiped a tear from her eye as a woman from the city, helping hold up the check, made the announcement.

"We are proud that we raised $17,734.83. But because of an anonymous donation, we have a new, grand total. Everybody ready? $19,000!"

The cover came off of the big check. Andy and Paige stood and smiled and applauded, as everyone in the packed room cheered.

$19,000 -- thanks to volunteers who organized the June 15-16 benefit concert hosted by the Snellville Tourism and Trade Association, and thanks to thousands of donors from across metro Atlanta who showed up, bought t-shirts, pins, food and drink, with the proceeds going to Aimee.

"I mean it just amazes me when I look around this room," Andy Copeland said as he received the money with Paige at his side. She wept as his voice cracked and he fought back tears of his own. "I see so many people that I just love to death. And I'll never forget this. And I know Aimee won't, either. And I know that her heart goes out to you just as mine does. And I wish she could be here today to accept the check. But there will be a day that she'll be here."

Andy Copeland is always eager to tell all who ask him how well Aimee is recovering, and how she is overcoming the amputations of her hands, left leg and right foot, and other medical effects of the infection. 

"This week, actually, they're going to be, basically, fitting her for her prosthetics," Andy told reporters after the presentation. "The $19,000 could go a long way toward her prosthetic limbs. We're going to need a manual set, we're going to need what is called a myoelectric set" and he expects the prosthetics will cost many times that amount.

"The will and determination that she has is just absolutely astonishing," he said. "I just don't think there's much that can hold her back... [Being fitted for her prosthetics] is going to be a significant event. I'm really looking forward to it. I think this is quite significant that, at this early stage, she can go ahead and start, basically, being able to have a little bit higher level dexterity than what she has now. But keep in mind, her dexterity is pretty doggone good."

He described again how Aimee started feeding herself and brushing her teeth late last week, using a device that attaches to her arm and holds objects like her toothbrush and dinnerware.

"You'd be surprised what she can do with her arms. And I call them arms, a lot of people refer to them as stumps, Aimee actually lovingly refers to them as nubs. She has a term, also, for her high hip amputation area. She calls [the area] 'Miss F.' 'Miss F' has her own personality. The 'F' is for femur. And there's only about two inches of femur bone that remains in that area. That's the area that received most of the skin grafts. 'Miss F' is going to take a little longer to get dressed out in a prosthetic limb; that's probably going to be the last phase, because we want to make sure that that area of her body is completely healthy."

On Tuesday, the Copelands will meet with a contractor who has offered to build, free of charge, an addition to the Copelands' Snellville home that will be outfitted for Amy's needs.

She is currently in an in-patient rehab facility in Snellville. She hopes to come home by the end of August, when her home's new addition is, coincidentally, expected to be complete.

"I think that is really important, because we want to bring Aimee home... to a house that accomodates her needs," Andy said. "But it's not just us that has these problems. And we're hoping that the community will continue not just to reach out to us, but to other people in need as well."

Here in Snellville, Aimee is everyone's daughter, sister.

At the City Council meeting, the council and the Copelands thanked two of Aimee's lifelong friends, a classmate from childhood, Brianna Quador, and her mother Vickie Gallup, for organizing the benefit concert for Aimee -- and it was just the beginning, they said.

"She's got a long road ahead of her," Brianna said. "And they're going to need all the financial help, all the moral support, everything, that they can get in this time of need. And we're all here for them, you know. That's what Snellville is about. The community joined together for one of our own."

"I just thank you all, from the bottom of my heart," Andy told everyone. "Thank you, all." And he and Paige began embracing everyone around them, in tears of gratitude.

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