WILSON - Katie Johnson is home.
The 19-year-old Wilson resident who has been hospitalized since an explosion destroyed her home and killed her sister in July has been released from Erie County Medical Center.
"Home at last" was the message she put out on Twitter this week.
Katie suffered severe burns in the July 24 blast that leveled her Chestnut Road home, but she was able to start walking and eating last month. She was able to start talking again Sept. 4, after a tracheotomy tube was removed. She was released after that wound healed.
Her 14-year-old sister, Sarah, died in the explosion that also injured her parents, Judith and Jody Johnson, and her brother Nathan, 17. They were treated and released from ECMC.
A sister Hannah, also 17, and brother Sam, 10, were not home at the time of the early morning explosion.
Katie spent months undergoing rehabilitation and therapy in the ECMC burn unit.
"We are all thrilled to have her back home with us," Katie's aunt, Kathy Hytten, wrote in a family blog. "She still has outpatient therapy in her future - probably often, but for now we are relishing in the fact that she is well enough to be home."
The explosion was caused by a buildup of propane in the family's house. What sparked the explosion remains unclear.
The death of Sarah Johnson, 14, a popular student who was active in sports and was set to begin Wilson Central High School, and the devastating damage and injuries to the Johnson family spurred a community reaction that continues today.
Family friend Sam Parise of Parise Mechanical said that more than $100,000 has been donated in the family's name, but it is unclear if that will be enough to cover medical bills.
He said he is hoping that insurance and fundraising money will help them buy a house and pay for some of the college expenses for Katie, who had been accepted at Geneseo State College and had planned to play soccer.
Another fundraiser, the Johnson Family Benefit, will be held from noon to 11 p.m. Saturday at Porter-on-the-Lake Park on Dietz Road, Youngstown.
The event will include raffles, games, face painting, crafts and bounce houses for the kids; hot dogs, hamburgers and drinks are included. There will be a beer tent, and 10 bands will perform.
Tickets are $15 in advance at Parise Mechanical, 1106 Sheridan Drive, Town of Tonawanda; Niagara Automotive, 3708 Ransomville Road, Ransomville; and at the customer service desk at the Fashion Outlets of Niagara on Military Road in Niagara Falls. Tickets are $20 at the door, and children 10 and younger are free.
Friends in the community continue to sell T-shirts, key chains and wristbands to raise money for the family. Donations can be made at any First Niagara Bank.
A community member also donated a large house to be used for as long as the family needs it.
"Obviously, they have some overwhelming hurdles to cross. They are back together, but not back together. The family is not whole, and they are missing Sarah. They are home, but they are in a new home and are now reliving the whole thing, getting Katie acclimated to the new house they have been living in for six weeks," Parise said.
But having their daughter out of the hospital has given the family a reason to celebrate.