WAKE FOREST, N.C. (WNCN) — Just like any other high school student, Mason Dark is thrilled to have his driver’s license. He’s happy he gets to leave school for lunch. He likes spending time with friends and family.
They’re things many typical teenagers take for granted, but not Mason.
“I’m very blessed to be here at school and to be alive,” he said. “I could still be in the hospital bed right now.”
Mason spent late April through mid-June at UNC Hospital with severe burns over much of his body, after imitating a social media challenge involving spray paint and a lighter.
“I thought I wasn’t going to be able to play football again or go to school,” he recalled.
He defied initial expectations, starting his junior year at Heritage High School with his class. Last week he celebrated his 17th birthday.
He has scars, but they’re fading. Physical therapy and laser surgeries help with pain and allow more movement, and every day brings progress.
“Next year, I’m gonna play football for Heritage,” Mason said.
To his mom, Holli Dark, his recovery is nothing short of amazing, though there are still hurdles, both physical and mental. “It’s still a process,” she noted.
“Still a lot emotional that you don’t really think about.”
Mason hopes seeing what happened to him will encourage other teens to stay safe. His story was featured in a documentary, released Wednesday, called “TMZ Presents: Tragically Viral.”
As Mason continues to heal, his family is thankful for a supportive community.
“So many people still check in on us and let us know, ‘We’re still praying for you,'” said Holli.
They’re also grateful for typical teenage moments.
“When he was intubated, I said, ‘All I want is him to come back and drive me crazy,'” Mason’s mom said, smiling. “He has done that. He has definitely done that.”