A Tampa native continues to inspire thousands around the world after nearly being killed in a freak accident two months ago.
Schuyler Arakawa is considered a medical miracle. Wading in the water during a rafting trip in Colombia, her life changed in an instant as a giant boulder came crashing down, hitting her directly in the head. Friends and family in Tampa came together Saturday to celebrate how she's defied the odds and raise money for her road to recovery.
A room full of sunflowers and messages of hope were a fitting way to honor Schuyler Arakawa, 22, who continues to inspire many around the globe.
"She just inspires people and is such a happy, bright light," said Seth Travaglino, Schuyler's former teacher, who organized Saturday's benefit.
Arakawa attended school at Corbett Prep in Tampa. Teachers and friends say she made an incredible impact on many at the school, and when they learned of the tragic accident that nearly took her life, they were compelled to organize the benefit.
"We need more Schuylers in this world, and we need her to stay," Travaglino said.
Schuyler has dedicated her life to helping others. She was awarded a Yale fellowship in South America with a charity called "Threads of Peru." Schuyler had gone on a rafting trip to Colombia with friends when a boulder fell nearly 30 feet, crush her. She had broken bones, punctured lungs and a severe brain injury. But from day one, despite how grim her odds seemed, her family's seen incredible things happen.
"Every day there have been hundreds of prayers, prayer groups, and that energy has transformed into miracles," said Schuyler's grandfather Craig Hankenson.
Her mom's been keeping everyone updated on Schuyler's amazing progress on Facebook through the page "Schuy is the Limit." In just the past few weeks, Schuy had her feeding tube removed. She's been talking and even stood up for the first time on her own.
And her family says she hasn't lost her sparkle.
"Schuyler would be the first to say, believe, and don't give up whatever you face. She's the perfect example," said Kathy Hankenson, Schuy's grandmother.
They're also grateful for the continued support through events like Saturday's. They know one day Schuyler will pay it forward in a big way.
"Schuyler is going to have a major impact on the world, I'm sure. She survived this for a reason," Craig Hankenson said.
Even from her hospital bed in Miami, she's continuing her giving spirit, insisting that a portion of the proceeds raised from bracelet sales go to the Threads of Peru charity she'd been working with.
Her family is optimistic Schuyler's condition will improve enough that she can return to Tampa for treatment this summer.
If you'd like to keep up with her incredible story, you can check out the "Schuy is the Limit" Facebook page.
To help with ongoing medical expenses, there's a Go Fund Me page, which has already raised almost $200,000.
You can pledge support here.