Family Thanks Community
Their father, Kevin, recalled, "They was going to roast marshmallows and we didn't know he was outside and he threw gas on the fire. When Brayden came inside the house, he had flames above his head. I couldn't even see his face. He was burnt. He come in the house and he was on fire. I took him to the bathtub and put him out and he had skin rolling off of him."
Brayden was airlifted to Columbia's Unversity Hospital. Kari remembered, "Kevin was just beside himself because he got burnt whenever he was peeling Brayden's clothes off. He knew the pain Brayden was in, so that made it worse on Kevin."
Brayden was five years old when he sustained second- and third-degree burns on 70% of his body, from his neck to his knees. His treatment and recovery meant the McNeils and their two other children had to spend more than three months at the hospital.
"It's really tough to see your child go through that. He was in bed for 60-something days at the University. He couldn't move his legs or anything. And the first time he got up to walk with a walker, it was amazing because he knew he'd come that far," Kevin remembered. "The Ronald McDonald House really helped us through. We've been coming for two years now, and there's still the same volunteers. You know that's dedicated people, when you have a child in the hospital and you don't know what's going to happen to them. Them people really touch your heart."
The McNeils are one of 900 families who make the Ronald McDonald House of Mid-Missouri their temporary home each year.
"We can sit down as a family and just have supper. It was just great as far as keeping us together," explained Kari. "He's okay with it. He knows he's different, but it doesn't bother him. He said, 'I'm tough mom. I made it through it.' And I said, 'Yes, you are.'"
Brayden added, "We've been going every month, but it's been past a month since I've been there, so they say I'm doing very good."
Brayden still has to sleep in braces, and he faces at least one surgery every year until he's 18.
"I just thank the people of Columbia for all of the support they give this place," said his father.