A woman and her disabled son, who recently moved to Georgia, now know the meaning of Southern hospitality.
An artificial leg belonging to 6-year-old Blü Riggs was lost during the hectic move from Oregon into their new home in Watkinsville.
The prosthetic, accidentally left on the roof of a car while the family unpacked, fell off onto a roadside, where a jogger found it July 23.
It remained unclaimed until Thursday, when Melissa Riggs recognized her son’s prosthesis in a story by The Athens Banner-Herald. When she picked it up, though, Riggs learned it was too damaged to use.
However, several residents offered to help Riggs after reading of hers and Blü’s plight.
A benefit fund was set up with Athens First Bank & Trust for people who want to donate money, and an Athens business plans to replace the leg at no charge.
“I’m blown away. It’s overwhelming,” Riggs said Friday. “I never expected this many people would want to come forward and want to help.”
Riggs didn’t ask for help.
The story about Blü’s damaged prosthesis was posted Thursday afternoon, and people soon started posting comments asking how they could help. Oconee resident Billy Porter e-mailed the Banner-Herald to say he already had gotten the ball rolling.
Porter, an Oconee County volunteer firefighter, called a friend at Fritz Orthotics and Prosthetics in Athens. The friend agreed to examine the artificial limb and determined it had to be replaced, but at no cost to the Riggs family.
That’s a relief to Riggs, who didn’t know whether insurance would pay for a new prosthesis.
“The one Blü had came through the Shriners in Oregon, so I have no idea how much these things cost, but I know they are very expensive,” she said.
Porter was immediately compelled to help after learning of Blü’s troubles.
“The reality that affected that child was an opportunity for us as a community to help out, and I knew that people would be ready and willing,” he said.
“That to me is the most humbling and gratifying thing to do, to help bless this little guy and his family, and let them know that even though they moved from across the country they now live around people who love and care about them,” Porter said.
All e-mails sent to the Banner-Herald offering help were forwarded to Riggs.
“I’m going to go through all the e-mails and respond to each and every one,” Riggs said.
She said she will use any contributed money solely for Blü’s medical care and ways to improve his quality of life.
The boy suffers from Mobius Syndrome, an extremely rare congenital neurological disorder that, among other disabilities, paralyzed his facial muscles and inhibits his ability to speak.
He and his mother learned sign language to communicate, but Blü has an iPad with a special application called Proloquo2go that helps him talk with friends and family.
Some donated money will pay for a badly needed new wheelchair, which Blü relies on most of the time to get around.
Though he’s had a prosthesis since he was 2, when his deformed leg was amputated, Blü needs to grab onto things as he makes his way around the house, and he holds his mother’s hands on short walks.
It’s expensive raising a special-needs child, Riggs said, and any donated funds will help defray costs.
Beyond the offers of financial support, Riggs was amazed at the compassion she’s found among her new neighbors in Georgia.
“When you have a special-needs kid, you don’t experience that often,” she said. “You constantly deal with people looking and staring at them, so it’s so nice to see him accepted, if that makes sense.
“I’m a proud mother every day, but it’s so touching to see how people can care so much.”