Why strangers from around world are drawn to help mauled boy

Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 2:47 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Justin Gilstrap is going on three weeks in the hospital after being attacked by dogs.

His story has gone from the Children’s Hospital of Georgia to international levels.

His mother can’t accept any more friends on Facebook, forcing her to create a new page specifically for the 11-year-old’s supporters.

“Following the story of Justin Gilstrap” is the group. Any post on the page goes to more than 20,000 members. One member is Meagan Dozier, who had no tie to Justin before this.

Early on, comments went from support to changing the conversation, which is why Dozier wanted to step in.

“I started noticing people were posting pictures of their children with their pit bulls or their pit bulls sleeping, and they say, ‘oh, it’s all how you raise them. They’re not all bad.’ They’re attacking this family. The truth is the child was mauled by three pit bulls. It is what it is. No amount of, you know, your dog being amazing is going to take that away from his family,” she said.

But she saw what happened, wanted to help, and now takes some stress off of Justin’s mom to help run the page.

“I’ll tell you the same thing that I told my boyfriend when he asked me like why I’m doing all this,” she said.

“There’s something that’s pulling me toward this,” she said. “I feel like I’m supposed to do this.”

She’s now one of five admins who help monitor the page.

“I didn’t want a mother that is in the hospital, seeing her child the way he is fighting for his life every day, to have to go on social media and have to see this. It’s just not okay. I thought it was completely disgusting. I wanted to do whatever I could to get in going in the right direction,” said Dozier.

Meagan says they’re starting to implement rules and monitor more.

Justin had his seventh surgery Monday after being attacked by the dogs.

Since then, families across the country have raised over $200,000 for him.

University of Georgia Head Football Coach Kirby Smart and quarterback Stetson Bennett called and sent gifts to the Dawgs fan. Now he’s sharing his story with us.

Justin’s mom says some days are good, and some are not so good with Justin in the Children’s Hospital of Georgia. Through it all, Justin says he’s a fighter.

“I don’t give up. I don’t give up for nothing,” he said.

His road to recovery is a long one but he’s taking one day and one surgery at a time.

“I’m looking to get better and walk again, being able to walk,” he said.

He showed he was able to walk by taking a few steps.

Justin Gilstrap
Justin Gilstrap(Contributed)

“It made me happy,” said Justin. “I was proud of myself to be able to walk again.”

People are seeing his toughness and rallying around him, like two of Justin’s idols: Kirby Smart and Stetson Bennett.

“We were talking about how I was thanking him for the football, and I was just excited to see him,” said Justin.

His goal is to see Bennett in person once he’s recovered.

“My dream is to get out on the field and throw the football with Stetson Bennett,” he said.

He also wants to get back on his bike, which was the last thing he did before he was attacked.

“It makes my leg feel better and I like riding my bike with my friends,” said Justin.

Justin will continue his fight for at least one more month at the children’s hospital, and then his mom says once they’re done in Augusta, they’ll have to go to Atlanta for surgeries.