Chelsea community welcomes home Eli Hairston

CHELSEA – Thirteen-year-old Eli Hairston had been hospitalized going on three months following a brain injury sustained in a golf cart accident, so the Chelsea community rolled out the red carpet to welcome him home on Thursday, Feb. 6.

Family, friends and supporters gathered in the Chelsea Middle School gymnasium to show how much they care for Eli—and to let him know how much he has inspired them.

“Some may remember November 16 as a day of a tragedy; I will remember November 16 as the day the miracles began to flow,” Chelsea Mayor Tony Picklesimer said. “Eli, your courage has moved us all to be better.”

Those who attended the event first went outside to cheer as Eli exited his family’s vehicle and entered the gymnasium. Some held up signs with messages such as “Welcome Back Eli!”

Back inside, Picklesimer thanked those in attendance and introduced the CMS cheerleaders, who chanted “Strong like Eli.”

Bronson Moore, a pastor at Church of the Highlands, noted how many different organizations supported the family in their time of need.

“This isn’t the best day, just the best day right now,” Moore said before leading the crowd in a prayer. “There are even better days coming.”

Gabby Finney, a Chelsea Middle School eighth grader who has lived next door to Eli for eight years, told Eli he was missed “so incredibly much.”

“You keep on fighting that fight, buddy,” Finney said.

Picklesimer said Eli has brought together the Chelsea community in a new way.

“The world may not know where Chelsea is, but the world knows who Eli is,” Picklesimer said and noted that a Facebook page set up in support of the Hairston family has more than 14,000 followers.

Eli’s father, Jay, thanked everyone for showing their support.

“It’s been overwhelming to see the support we have in this community,” Hairston said and called Chelsea a “special place.”

“Thanks for praying for me, and thanks for coming,” Eli added before having a piece of cake supplied by the city and mingling with supporters. “I’m very happy to be home.”