DEERFIELD BEACH—A Deerfield Beach teenager who was set on fire is responding to his parents for the first time since he was taken to the hospital, a family friend said this morning.
Michael Brewer, 15, reached out to hold his father's hand Wednesday, said Danny Martinez, who is staying with his family.
Brewer is being treated at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami for burns that covered more than two thirds of his body.
He was also able to nod to his mother when she asked if he liked having his feet rubbed, Martinez said. Brewer's feet are one of the few parts on his body that are not burned.
Authorities say five boys surrounded Brewer Monday afternoon outside a Deerfield Beach apartment complex, splashed him with rubbing alcohol and lit him ablaze.
The boys have been charged with aggravated assault. One of them is also charged with attempted second-degree murder.
People from all across the state and country have been calling to offer support to the victim, Martinez said.
A foundation he set up to help pay the boy's medical expenses had raised $740 in donations as of Wednesday night. Martinez said his goal is to eventually expand the foundation to help other burn victims.
"We should not look at this just as a tragedy," he said. "It could be a blessing also."
Brewer's mother said today she believes her son will survive, even as his doctor predicted his condition will worsen before it gets better.
"He's very strong," Valerie Brewer said on the NBC Today show. "I know he's going to pull through this."
Valerie Brewer said she has hardly been away from her son's bedside. He can't talk because he has tubes in his throat, but he makes motions with his hands and responds to her voice, she said.
She used appearances this morning on national television to make a plea for the public to do more to end violence among young people.
"People need to really wake up and see what is going on with this generation," Brewer said on ABC's Good Morning America show.
Dr. Nicholas Namias, director of the hospital's Burn Center, said it was premature to talk about Michael Brewer being out of the woods as far as his recovery is concerned.
"He isn't even in the woods yet," Namias said on the CBS Early Show.
Brewer said her son has sat up in bed and tried to tell her to take the tubes out of his throat. He asks for water, and then goes back to sleep, she says.
"It's just a big blur. It's heart ache and pain," she told CBS.