At a prayer gathering for a critically injured 7-year-old Tuesday morning, an uncle read a message from the boy’s parents, asking friends and neighbors to “continue to pray for a miracle, as that is our only hope right now.”
That’s just what a crowd of more than 100 adults and children did as they met around the flagpole at Hughson Elementary before school started. A chorus of voices, many soft, the louder ones choked with emotion, sang hymns including “Our God is an Awesome God” and “Amazing Grace.” They joined in reciting the Lord’s Prayer. And they listened to Scripture, from 2 Corinthians: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
All thoughts and prayers were focused on Hughson Elementary first-grader Morgan Thornsberry and his parents, Kasey and Shandea, and siblings. With family at his bedside, the child lay unconscious and in critical condition Tuesday morning at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.
He was injured on private property off Leedom Road just outside Hughson, according to Hughson Police Services. Details on what happened are few. “We have that it was a wedding and that a child somehow during the course of the reception was on an ATV or golf cart” and crashed, said Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Mark Nuno.
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The California Highway Patrol, not the Sheriff’s Department, responds to crashes in the county, but the 911 call went out as an “unresponsive child,” not indicating a vehicle accident, so a CHP officer was not dispatched, said Officer Eric Parsons, a CHP spokesman.
Family members reached by phone Monday and at the prayer gathering Tuesday declined to comment on the incident, saying word would have to come from Morgan’s parents. But as support was shared in Facebook posts, several people or groups referred to what they’d heard.
The Hughson Elementary Parent Teacher Club posted that Morgan was “in critical condition after being hit by a vehicle.” A Hughson Huskies Varsity Volleyball post reads: “If you are a praying person, please lift up my oldest friend’s son. He sustained a major head injury last night and is in critical condition.” And family friend Janell Schmidt Myrick wrote that Morgan suffered a fractured skull and brain swelling.
In addition to the prayers and offers of help shared on Facebook, a gofundme page, Prayers for Morgan, quickly surpassed its $15,000 fundraising goal to help the Thornsberry family with the financial load of medical care.
“We want to say thank you for the incredible show of love from friends ... and our wonderful little town,” read the statement from Kasey and Shandea Thornsberry, who said they were amazed by the outpouring of love, support and donations sent their way.
At Tuesday’s prayer gathering, family members and friends spoke lovingly of Morgan as a warmhearted, rough-and-tumble little boy.
Great-aunt Lele Hicks called him “the biggest sweetheart in the world,” with a “smile that shines forever.” Her husband, Donny, is a church elder, she said, and when he’s leading services, he can always count on “Mr. Morgan,” as she calls her great-nephew, to be sending that big smile his way.
“He’s a very outgoing, energetic boy” who loves to play baseball and wrestle, she added.
Others painted a similar picture. “He’s a practical joker” and always up for a challenge, said family friend Sarah Beers. “If you tell him he can’t do something, he’ll do it. He’d climb anything,” Beers said. “He has so much energy and a good spirit.”
Cooper Thornsberry, four years older than his cousin, added, “He would always just say, ‘Watch me!’ and do some trick. … I don’t think a lot of 7-year-old kids live the kind of life where they play with kids five years older than them.”
At Hughson Elementary, a psychologist and counselor was on campus Monday to talk with a couple of kids “because they are really tender” at this age, said Principal Eric Petersen, who added that the staff has a response plan in place should Morgan’s condition change either way.
“Right now, we’re clinging to hope, not beginning a mourning process,” he said. “We’re rallying around the family, giving them support and respecting their privacy and wishes.”
Just as the roughly 600-student school, which spans transitional kindergarten through third grade, is tightly knit, so is the community in general, Petersen said. “This kind of community outpouring is super,” he said. “I’m proud of my Hughson students and their families, who all are represented here today.”
Something such as Morgan’s injury “passes all racial boundaries and socioeconomic levels,” Petersen said, “because we all love our children … it’s a common denominator that unites us all.”
Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327