by Kaylyn Johnston

Imagine receiving a frantic phone call from your next-door neighbor saying that your son had just been shot . . . by his best friend. For the Stokes family of Oregon, this unthinkable event became a reality in January 2011, when their 12-year-old son Austin suffered a severe head injury after being shot with a loaded shotgun.

Since the near-fatal wound over a year ago, Austin has undergone numerous surgeries, including many to drain spinal fluid from his skull. Austin wears a helmet 24 hours a day to protect his exposed brain. He has had to relearn basic skills such as how to eat, walk, and talk, and has just recently returned to school with the help of in-home tutors.

Within the upcoming year, Austin must have at least two surgeries where doctors will use different parts of his ribs to help repair his damaged skull.

According to the Florida non-profit organization Families Against Murder and Accidental Shootings, the United States has the highest overall firearm mortality rate. The Center for Disease Control reports that more than 28,000 Americans have died every year since 1972 due to firearm accidents.

Because of these startling statistics and their personal experiences, the Stokes family hopes to raise awareness of gun safety from this incident. Austin’s father, Adam Stokes, says it best: 

“Way too many kids have gotten hurt or killed by people who are not being safe. I am going to try my hardest to help other people hear this message so they do not have to go through what we have or even worse. Please help me get the word out and let’s make the world a safer place for kids.

For more information about the Stokes family, visit The Desert News

The Stokes family has also asked for financial support to pay for the ever-mounting medical bills. The family has set up a fund in Austin’s name, which can be found here