Girl sickened by brain eating amoeba returns to water park
For the first time, the 12 year old survivor of a rare brain eating amoeba returns to the water park where she contracted the parasite. Kali Hardig visited Willow Springs Park today, where the owner made a big announcement about a fundraiser for Kali...and also new plans for the park.
12 year old Kali Hardig is a walking miracle... only the third known survivor of a rare brain eating infection. She's now making her first trip back to the park where she contracted the amoeba, even walking down to the pond.
She says she was excited to return for one reason.
"Because I have a lot of fun here with my friends," says Kali Hardig.
"I'm real proud of her. I didn't know what to expect. If she would be nervous or afraid to go down there or what, so I'm real happy that she wanted to go down and see the fish," says Kali's mother Traci Hardig.
Willow Springs Water Park has been closed since Kali became sick, but the owners have now decided to re-open it, but not as a water park. This will be a place where families can, instead, fish... they've stocked this pond with catfish. They will also have space for camping, boat storage and an RV park.
"There's been people coming out here for 85 years. There's so many stories and so many memories, And we want people to be able to come back and enjoy the park in some fashion," says owner David Ratliff.
Kali's mom's wants this place to succeed, saying there are no hard feelings whatsoever... and she wants the public to know.
"I want them to know that it's ok to come out here. They're just a family trying to survive...and this was there livelihood.. They wouldn't have hurt my daughter for anything. This has nothing to do with them," says Traci Hardig.
These two families are now joining together for a fundraiser later this month... a fishing tournament and fall festival at Willow Springs... with all of the money raised - going to the Hardig family.
"We want to raise as much money as we can possibly raise. Every single penny's going to the family. Every single penny's going to the family," says Ratliff.
*** The fundraiser is scheduled for October 26th at Willow Springs. There will be a fishing tournament and a horseshoe tournament, along with a fall festival. Admission will be $25 at the gate, or $20 in advance. For more information call 501-888-4148.