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Walters students turn out to welcome home injured boy

WALTERS  Christmas is supposed to be a time for family, fun and exchanging presents. But three days before Christmas 2017, tragedy struck a Walters family. On Friday, after several months of surgeries and rehabilitation, an entire town welcomed a little boy back home.

Kids and adults alike lined the streets of Walters and there were hundreds of orange balloons. Children of all ages held posters that they had made at a fun day  and all of them offered encouraging words to one little brave boy, Austin Benefiel. 

His father, Rocky Benefiel, was driving down U.S. 277 heading toward Walters when a head-on collision occurred. In the vehicle with him were his wife Savannah, his son Austin, who is 8, and son Gage, who is 4.

Savannah Benefiel died at a Lawton hospital. Rocky Benefiel suffered a broken wrist, broken ribs, a torn rotator cuff, torn biceps and multiple cuts and bruises. Gage's arm was inured. And Austin suffered many, many injuries that kept him away from home until Friday.

"Austin had eight surgeries in the first week of being at Dallas Children's Hospital," Rocky Benefiel said. "He was in ICU for 3 weeks. His back was broken in two places, his leg was broken, they had to repair his aorta, part of his intestine was removed and his spleen was so damaged they had to take it out. They couldn't fly him to Dallas because of threatening weather, so he went by ambulance to Dallas. I couldn't go with him because the doctors said that I was too banged up, so his pawpaw rode in the ambulance with him. I went down the next day to be with him."

"Overall, he's done really well as far as high spirits are concerned," he said. "He hasn't given up and he has a great spirit and a great attitude."

The move to Bethany Rehabilitation Hospital was on Jan. 8. 

"Only a handful of spots even take kids as young as Austin," Benefiel said. "We were so blessed to have him there. Me and my sister have been rotating shifts by the week. If it hadn't been for the support shown by the churches and the people of Walters, I don't know how we could have made it.

"I have a wonderful family support group too. The boy's pawpaw has been like my right hand, being there to help in every sense of the word.

"I have worked for T&G Construction and they have been there this whole journey," Benefiel said. "They have let me off to be with my son, employees have taken up several donations, and the company itself has taken up several donations. I appreciate that very much."

"I can't believe this day has finally arrived," said Pam Callen, Rocky's Benefiel's mom and the boy's grandmother, as she saw her grandson finally arrive at the school he missed so much.

The Lawton Constitution

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