Dozens of boats gathered Saturday around Hart-Miller Island as area residents shared beers, snowballs and their money at a fundraiser for the family of Daniel Borowy, the victim of the shooting at Perry Hall High School.
Daniel, a 17-year-old special education student who has Down syndrome, was wounded when a gunman opened fire in the school cafeteria on the first day of the academic year.
It was the teen's first outing since the incident and his first time on a boat. His father, Milton Borowy, led him by hand onto a speedboat docked in Essex, and the family joined the merriment on the Chesapeake Bay.
Borowy and his wife, Rosemary, thanked supporters — all of them strangers to the family — and expressed relief and gratitude for their son's speedy recovery.
"It's nothing short of a miracle," Borowy said. "There is room out there for prayer. This is proof of it."
Robert Wayne Gladden Jr., 15, a student, has been charged in the shooting, accused of concealing a shotgun taken from his father's home and reassembling it in a school bathroom before opening fire.
Daniel was shot in the back before a guidance counselor disarmed the shooter.
Daniel, wearing a purple Ravens T-shirt and Hawaiian lei, enjoyed the party from the roof of a houseboat under a sunny sky. As a boat owner gave him the chance to steer a small fishing boat, with assistance, he smiled and waved to partiers and reporters.
Rosemary Borowy said she didn't know whether her son understood that the party was for him. She's also not sure what he remembers of the shooting. But he enjoyed the boat rides and is eager to return to his normal life, she said.
"He knows in general that everyone's there for him," she said.
Perry Hall resident Sue Doyle organized the event and enlisted members of the Eastern Yacht Club in Essex to help carry equipment such as a generator and loudspeaker and to ferry members of the media.
"We are just being good neighbors," said Deb Blankenship, a club member.
The fundraiser included a raffle, and buckets were passed from boat to boat to collect donations. From a loudspeaker, a disc jockey said $2 from the sale of every snowball at a floating platform near the island would go to the Borowy family.
The fundraising total was not immediately available.
The Borowys said they did not know how much their son's medical bills might cost them.
"It's probably going to be huge," Milton Borowy said.
The Borowys said they had not considered legal action against the Baltimore County school system or Gladden. Their main concern has been their son's recovery.
"All I've thought about is that Daniel gets better and comes home," Rosemary Borowy said. "I got my wish."
Daniel's rehabilitation includes changing bandages twice a day, but otherwise he is back to his normal dancing and playing, Rosemary Borowy said.
Once his wounds have healed, he will return to school, but she wasn't sure when that would be.
He is eager for that day, she said, adding, "He just wants to do what he's always done."