OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Matt McDonnell has faced many challenges during his years in management at the Coast Coliseum and as an Ocean Springs alderman, which he served for 20 years. But McDonnell is facing perhaps the biggest challenge of his life right now. His 26-year-old son, Harris, was critically injured in a car crash on I-10 in Florida two months ago.
Matt McDonnell will never forget the morning he got a call about a horrible accident that left his son's body crushed and broken.
"You see it on TV. You read about it in the paper. But once you get that call, what goes through your mind is a tremendous amount of anxiety, fear, unknown," McDonnell recalled.
McDonnell had to take a trip to Florida to see his son.
"There were a lot of moments of silence, and I know on my part, as well as my wife's part, there was a lot of prayer."
The prayers worked. Harris slowly recovered after 36 days in the hospital. While there, he met the deputy that saved his life and pulled him from the burning vehicle.
Still, there's a feeling of helplessness for McDonnell.
"Your firstborn is in a situation that you can offer really no control, no help, no ability to get him better. That's in the Lord's hands and in the doctor's hands," McDonnell explained.
Other people have helped build a wheelchair ramp for Harris when he comes home to visit McDonnell. The ordeal has opened McDonnell's eyes.
"One, it's caused me to re-focus. Your family is the most important thing you have. The love of a child, I don't know if there's any greater love than that."
McDonnell uses social media to share the story, using his own Facebook page and a new page called Rebuilding Harris. He writes about the slow progress that Harris is making.
"We felt this was the best way to communicate. And then it became a healing tool because it allowed myself and others to talk about what had happened."
While Harris still has months, if not years of recovery still ahead of him, his father has discovered one true feeling that can never be taken away.
"For him to have this setback and be able to deal with it in the fashion that he has, I'm more proud of him now than I've ever been."
A charity walk and run for Rebuilding Harris is planned for Sunday afternoon, January 28th. It will be held from 2pm until 4pm starting at the Ocean Springs Yacht Club on Front Beach. Proceeds from the event will help offset the medical expenses that have accumulated during Harris' recuperation process.