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Cumberland County toddler out of ICU and headed home, community stepping up to help family

1-year-old Samuel Neal moved out of the ICU Wednesday. The Cumberland County community is still supporting him nonstop with fundraisers, donations and prayers.

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Tenn. — Samuel Neal, the Cumberland County toddler who nearly drowned in a pond on May 1, is out of the intensive care unit. On May 21, he is set to return home.

According to a post on Facebook from his parents, the 1-year-old is now considered in fair and stable condition at East Tennessee Children's Hospital. He is off the ventilator and doctors are monitoring his eating and eyesight.

Even from over an hour away, the Cumberland County community is fully supporting this family with no questions asked.

"I'm just so proud to be part of Cumberland County right now, it's been just outstanding, what everybody's done just coming together to help them," said Stage Ward, the owner of Merci Beauty Lounge in Crossville.

It takes a village to raise a child. But when tragedy hits, that's when the real support shows up.

"As long as you are believing in God and that you put your faith where you're supposed to, it'll all work out how it's supposed to," Ward said.

'Baby Sammy,' as the staff at the salon calls him, was always a smiling, happy baby. His mom, Lacie Neal, works at Merci Beauty Lounge as a nail technician. Ward said she talks to Lacie every day.

"We're together so much, we're more like a family than we are just co-workers," Ward said.

The shop is selling bracelets and accepting donations from neighbors and strangers. Ward said a local boutique also donated $1,200 Wednesday alone.

They have already raised over $20,000 through their GoFundMe page.

Credit: Stage Ward

"Even though neither one of them would ever ask for anything, the whole community has shown up and shown that in a time of crisis like this, we can count on all of Cumberland County to be helpful in any way they need," Ward said.

Down the street at Domino's on Genesis Square, a Monday night fundraiser for the family almost sold out their daily supply of food.

💙 🚨 As a reminder the Neal family fundraiser is tomorrow! 🚨 We anticipate we will be VERY busy and wait times could be...

Posted by Domino's Pizza on Sunday, May 9, 2021

"As a Christ-follower, I think it's very important to show our love to the families in need like that," said franchise owner Derek Solomon.

That fundraiser raised $3,700 to support the family. Solomon said he was amazed by the number of people who showed up. The shop had to cancel orders around 7 p.m. and projected how much would have been spent. They ended up donating 20% to the family.

At times there was over a two-hour wait in line just to get a pizza and support a family as it faces tragedy.

"Just seeing the support of everyone being there was far outweighed any type of money that we could have raised that night," Solomon said.

Even on the baseball field, Sammy's big brother hit his first home run in his honor. The team prayed and played for Sammy on Tuesday, holding a banner that said he was in their prayers.

Credit: Jennifer Hyder Potts

Some people are selling t-shirts, others offering prayers in a fast-growing "Prayers for Samuel" Facebook group.

“I can speak for everyone in Cumberland County saying that they have inspired so many people by being so strong, and so humble throughout this whole experience," Ward said.

Merci Beauty Lounge hopes to host a benefit for the family in June. To donate to the GoFundMe, click here.