LA GRANGE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Six weeks ago, Tristan Ballinger was clinging to life with a piece of metal lodged in his forehead after a freak accident.

"We were all really scared and afraid, wondering if he was going to make it," said Katie Ballinger Rodriguez, Tristan's aunt.

This week, his family got a Christmas miracle of sorts. Not only is the Oldham County teen alive but Ballinger Rodriguez says her nephew is thriving. 

"He actually started speaking earlier this week," she said. "Single-word responses to questions."

Friends, family, teammates and even strangers packed La Grange Coffee Roasters on Thursday to celebrate Tristan's 16th birthday.

"I was able to see Tristan last night, and he was able to say my name," said Jacob Henley, Tristan's teammate at Oldham County High School. "It was a pretty special moment."

"He absolutely recognizes his sister and his parents," Ballinger Rodriguez said.

But she warns that Tristan has a long recovery ahead of speech and physical therapy seven days a week, six times a day at Frazier Rehab Institute.

So in addition to celebrating his life, the community came together to raise money for his recovery.

Local businesses donated everything from gift certificates to patio furniture for an auction.

"It's a good thing," said Lee Cockrell with La Grange Coffee Roasters. "It's just that simple, and it's a good thing."

 "It's pretty amazing," Henley said. "I'm just really glad to see all these people ... It's been incredible."

If you'd like to donate to Tristan, click here.

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