How many parents can relate? Your child asks repeatedly to help you with the chores and you’re torn because you know it’s probably quicker to proceed without the help.
Aaron Morris, of New Franklin, was there on July 11 and saying “yes” to his helpful son, Mason, will be a lifelong regret.
Aaron was doing yard work, pouring small amounts of gasoline on stubborn weeds – one at a time – and then setting them on fire.
Mason, watching, asked to help several times before Aaron finally relented.
It all happened so fast in what Aaron describes as something like a scene from a “surreal movie.” Somehow the cup of gasoline Mason was holding was aflame.
“Before you know it, he was a ball of flames,” said Aaron. “The first flames must have startled him. I saw him jump up and then back, which caused him to spill gasoline down his front. In the blink of an eye, he was engulfed.”
Mason, 12, began to run, and Aaron chased him, attempting to get him to “stop, drop and roll.” But the gasoline was a powerful accelerant. So Aaron began ripping off Mason’s clothes piece by piece, burning his own face, hands and arms in the process.
Father and son were both admitted to Akron Children’s Paul and Carol David Foundation Burn Institute, where Mason faces a long recovery.
He was burned over more than 80% of his body and will require numerous skin grafting surgeries. It will be a long, slow – and, yes, painful, recovery process.
Aaron and especially Mason’s mother, Melissa, have been by his bedside daily. Sisters Madison, 20, and Makenzie, 13, have been supportive and also helpful in caring for 2-year-old Maylee.
But even in the family’s darkest hour, there has been sunshine in the form of their tightknit New Franklin/Manchester community rallying around them.
One local business is selling “Morris Strong” and “Mason Strong” t-shirts to raise money for the family; another stocked their freezer with free meat.
Two poker runs and a GoFundMe page are raising funds to help offset Aaron’s loss of work. He is a self-employed carpenter and contractor who can’t use his hands. Spaghetti dinners and raffles are also planned, while friends and neighbors are organizing meal deliveries.
“The generosity of this community and events and fundraisers have been amazing,” said Aaron. “It’s been overwhelming and we can’t thank our family, friends, neighbors, and others enough for their support and prayers.”
Mason will be a 7th grader at Manchester Middle School this year. He is an accomplished wrestler and also loves football, baseball, and other sports.
Aaron said it’s hard to see such a fun-loving, active boy wrapped up entirely in gauze with a long hospitalization ahead of him.
“Everyday is progress, even though there are set backs,” he said. “When you, as a parent, are limited as to what you can do for your child, it’s hard. We leave our faith and hopes with the doctors and nurses, who are doing an awesome job for Mason. And we just kiss him and tell him we love him.”