RUSKIN, Florida -- Diego Duran has made huge strides since a stray bullet rained down in Ruskin in the early morning hours of January 1, 2012 and struck Diego Duran in the head as he watched New Year's fireworks outside his house.
"I'm thankful for being here, right now," he says.
He can't ride rollercoasters and must be extra careful when skateboarding, but there's so much he can do a year and a half after suffering an injury that could have killed him. He's returned to school, loves playing basketball, and is eager to raise awareness about the dangers of celebratory gunfire.
"Not to shoot up in the air," he says when asked about his message. "Think about it, knowing that you're going to put everyone's life at risk."
That crucial education is the mission of Bullet Free Sky, the awareness campaign that he and his family are behind. Shooting a gun into the air is a crime, though suspects are rarely tracked down since bullets can travel miles. To this day, no one knows who was behind the bullet that struck Diego.
He and Bullet Free Sky are holding their first-ever fundraising event at the Firehouse Cultural Center on 1st Ave. NE in Ruskin on Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. It's free, and will include food, raffles, music, and an important message about shooting guns in the air this holiday weekend.
"We're trying to make the best of this experience by raising awareness of how dangerous it is to celebrate with guns," says Diego's mom, Sandy.
Last year on Independence Day, during a fireworks show in Safety Harbor, a stray bullet pierced Richard Smeraldo's face before bouncing off a medallion around his neck, which kept it from piercing his chest.
He has since met Diego and given him a similar medallion, engraved with a message. Under the words "Bullet Free Sky," it says, "If ye have faith of a grain of mustard, nothing shall be impossible unto you."
The Durans believe nothing will be impossible now, including spreading hope for a bullet free sky.
"There was a guy at one of our shows who stood there and said, 'You guys are doing a good thing,'" Diego says. "He used to shoot up every New Year's. Maybe it changed his thought, not to do it again."