Outpouring of community help for girl paralyzed in car accident

PUYALLUP, Wash. - It's one thing for your family to help. Friends, too. But strangers?

The car accident that severely disabled a 7-year-old Eatonville girl has inspired an outpouring of community support to build a special addition to her family's home.

And McKenzie Harris will be coming home soon.

"She's going to need a lot of things to help her function as she builds a new life," said McKenzie's grandmother, Amy Peterson."To see how people are willing to help, to donate, is absolutely wonderful. I can't thank people enough."

McKenzie and her family were in their pickup truck New Year's Day morning when another pickup hit them head-on near their home. Police say the driver of the other vehicle had experienced some kind of medical emergency and died in the accident.

The collision seriously injured parents Doug and Sara Harris, their son and two nieces. But McKenzie sustained the most traumatic injuries.

She is paralyzed from the neck down and must breath with a ventilator. Doctors say she will probably need around-the-clock care the rest of her life.

"What that little girl is going through, it's heart-breaking," said Peterson. "Yet every day she wakes up with a smile. And if she can smile, we can smile."

Today at the Spanaway Walmart, about two dozen members of McKenzie's Girl Scout troop gathered to sell cookies to raise money for the Harris family. With the help of country music radio station KMPS, the troop sold more than 2,000 boxes.

Family friends also held a fundraiser at Station House 726 this evening. Organized by Amy Peterson's co-workers, the event included a raffle, silent auction, and spaghetti dinner.

The money will help the family build a customized addition to their home to accommodate McKenzie. They will also need a vehicle with a wheel-chair lift and assistance paying for medical bills.

"Our family is close and our family is strong," said Peterson. "We didn't expect to go down this path, but we will and we will make it. We will make a great life for McKenzie."

Relatives say McKenzie will come home from the hospital once the addition is finished, which should be by the end of April or early May.