Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Andy Copeland shows his appreciation to Sherry Dudish and Denise Duck, right, who were among the several hundred people who united to raise money to benefit the Copeland family during a series of outdoor concerts next to the Snellville City Hall on Friday. Andy's daughter, Aimee Copeland, 24, a South Gwinnett High School graduate is currently battling a rare flesh-eating disease called necrotizing fasciitis.
IF YOU GO
What: Aimee's Weekend, Day 2
When: Saturday from 2 to 11 p.m.
Where: Snellville Towne Green
More info: Saturday's schedule will include back-to-back performances of six more bands, as well as appearances from Freddie (the Atlanta Falcons mascot), several local TV personalities and former UGA and South Gwinnett quarterback David Greene. For a full schedule, visit snellvillepride.com.
SNELLVILLE -- Several hundred people gathered on the Snellville Towne Green on Friday night, enjoying live music, good food and a charitable spirit.
It's a safe bet that Andy Copeland personally thanked every single one.
"It's not even that I feel obligated. I want to," Copeland said over the roar of local band The Elements of Style. "I've wanted to get out and hug everybody and to shake hands and to thank people. Their love is one of the many things that I believe has kept us going."
Copeland's daughter, Aimee, is the 24-year-old South Gwinnett High School graduate who has been battling a flesh-eating bacteria since a zip-lining accident in early May. She is the inspiration for "Aimee's Weekend," a series of free outdoor concerts beginning Friday night and continuing throughout the day Saturday.
In khaki shorts and a T-shirt bearing his daughter's mantra of "Let's do this," Andy Copeland roamed among the food vendors, inflatables and rows of lawn chairs splayed in front of Snellville's City Hall, literally shaking the hand of every person he met.
They were all there in support of Aimee, who has had a leg, a foot and both hands amputated but shown strength through it all. Countless donations were made by purchasing food, T-shirts, pins or nothing at all.
"It's the absolute definition of community," Snellville Councilman Bobby Howard said. "The courage and determination and the grace that the whole family is showing, there's not words. If everybody just takes a piece of this experience, they'll be better for it."
Even as the festivities were going on in Snellville, Aimee was back at Doctors Hospital in Augusta undergoing yet another surgery. A graduate student in psychology at the University of West Georgia, she's begun abandoning morphine during skin graft dressing changes, opting instead for meditation.
Long removed from her battle to keep most of her major organs alive, the rehab process may begin in as soon as two weeks.
Well-wishers wrote encouraging messages Friday on a banner to be delivered to Aimee. Even without being there, though, she was doing some inspiring of her own.
"She's giving strength to a lot of people that are witnessing her struggle and her fight," said Lilburn resident Alan North, a cancer survivor.
Said Andy Copeland: "I think her story has hit a real inspirational thread for a lot of people, and seeing that gives us inspiration. It's like a cycle that feeds energy back and forth. It's absolutely amazing."
Friday's event was a success by any definition, but Saturday promises to be even bigger. Back-to-back concerts from 2 to 11 p.m. will include performances from six different bands. The day will also include appearances from Freddie (the Atlanta Falcons mascot), several local TV personalities and former South Gwinnett and UGA quarterback David Greene.
A full schedule of Saturday's events is available at snellvillepride.com.
"I believe that somehow Aimee is going to be weaved into the fabric of Gwinnett County for a long time," Andy Copeland said. "And not just Gwinnett County, because she's touched people in Augusta, people in Carrollton, people as far west as Washington state, people in Asia."
"I just can't even begin to tell you. It blows my mind."