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Everyday Hero turns near-tragedy into an opportunity to protect the homeless from the cold

Posted at 11:42 AM, Dec 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-31 13:55:00-05

AURORA, Colo. — For Alec Grimes, the month of December is a reminder of how fast life can change.

"At the drop of a hat, everything can change. I was in a burn ICU one day and I never thought I would’ve been," the 25-year-old said.

Four years ago, the then-21-year-old ended up at UCHealth Burn and Frostbite Center - Anschutz Medical Campus. He had gotten lost for hours walking in the snow and when he arrived to his brother's house his feet were black from frostbite. His brother rushed him to the hospital, a moment his mother will never forget.

"I just looked at them and said do whatever you need to do to save his feet," said Alec's mom, Tina Grimes.

UCHealth Burn and Frostbite Center Medical Director Dr. Anne Wagner said in those cases, without correct treatment, a person will end up losing the part of their body that was frozen or a good portion of it.

Luck, as it turns out, was on Alec's side. Doctors were able to save his feet.

During his stay in the hospital, Alec noticed all the homeless people coming in with frostbite.

"The burn unit on our own has always tried to raise money to give the homeless boots and coats and all that kind of stuff, but we’re limited," Dr. Wagner said.

So Alec began collecting warm clothes and gear to donate to the burn and frostbite center. It started small, but has grown into a massive donation pile over the years.

"There’s a lot of good people out there. Again, with the tough times, it’s just unbelievable the outpouring of support," Alec said.

Now, each December, he returns to the UCHealth Burn and Frostbite Center with bags of cold weather protection. It's a way to say thank you to the team who saved him and spread a little warmth to those who really need it.

"To do what he’s done, at this young of an age, it’s just unbelievable. And the fact that every year he comes and keeps it up and it gets bigger and bigger and bigger, it’s just the coolest thing ever," Dr. Wagner said.

Molly Hendrickson anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30-7 a.m. She also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on Denver7. Follow Molly on Facebook here and Twitter here. To nominate a hero in your life, click here.