ballloons-airbornDENVER (Reuters) – A San Francisco teenager who raised $18,000 by running in a road race Tuesday presented the check to one of the most seriously injured victims of the Columbine High School massacre.

Rashad Williams, 15, was so moved by the plight of Columbine student Lance Kirklin — whom he had never met — that he decided to run in San Francisco’s annual 7.5 mile “Bay to Breakers” race last month in a bid to raise money for him.

Kirklin, 16, almost bled to death and had to learn to walk again after two Columbine students, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, went on the rampage on April 20, killing 13 people and wounding 23 before killing themselves.

”I’m at a loss for words right now. It’s overwhelming,” said Kirklin, who was treated at an area hospital for wounds to the face, chest, groin and thigh. He is now recuperating at home. “It’s breathtaking that someone would do this for me,” he added.

Williams, an athlete at Archbishop Riordan High School, had expected to raise only several hundred dollars but a columnist at the San Francisco Examiner wrote about the teen and he raised $14,000. People kept giving and the fund grew to $18,000. San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown declared May 24 Rashad Williams day.

“I was tired. I just kept thinking about Lance,” Williams said, describing what kept him going in the grueling race.

The money will be deposited in a trust fund to help pay medical bills that stand at $250,000 and are expected to grow to $1 million. Kirklin faces four more operations on his face.

Kirklin was walking out of the cafeteria at Columbine High School in Littleton with his friends Sean Graves and Dan Rohrbough when all three were shot. Rohrbough died in the attack and Graves was seriously wounded.

Surgeons initially took a bone and skin from Kirklin’s leg to help rebuild the left side of his face. When he first spoke to reporters a month ago, he could not take his favorite drink, apple juice, because “there’s a hole in my face and the juice drips out.”

The Kirklin family has no health insurance and Lance’s father Mike has let his small tree cutting business lapse so he can take care of his son.

Dr. Stephen Batuello called his patient a “healing machine” and said he expects to see Kirklin and Williams run a race together soon. “I’ll pass out after I run one block,” quipped Kirklin, who is known for his jokes.

(Copyright Reuters Limited 1999)

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