CHARLESTON, Ill. (WCIA) – 10-year-old Ma’Liyah White has been hospitalized ever since she fell into an icy pond two months ago.

Now, the Coles County Deputy that helped save her life wants to decorate the community in her honor.

When he’s not saving lives, Deputy Cody Lee is at his workshop crafting custom metal decor. He owns Hurricane Creek Metal Works, and he decided to sell special yard signs to raise money for the young girl’s medical expenses.

Lee was the first officer to report to the scene on January 15 when White nearly drowned. She was chasing her dogs across a pond that day when the ice broke beneath her. Her grandfather died trying to rescue her.

Since then, her condition has slowly improved. Lee wants her to feel supported when she finally gets to come home.

So, he’s selling signs to cover Charleston lawns with her name, and her favorite color, purple. Purple also happens to be the color of water safety and drowning awareness.

“She’s got a lot of support. Our main thing is when she does come home, hopefully we can fill yards and businesses throughout the community with some of these signs so she can see the support. Also, to raise awareness of the dangers of bodies of water, especially when they’re ice-covered,” he said.

Within the first few hours of offering the signs, Lee sold between 30-40 of them. New orders come in every day. His goal is to eventually see 300-500 “Ma’Liyah Strong” signs across Charleston.

“Not a lot of people are going to see purple and recognize that it’s for drowning awareness. But, if people start hearing the story, especially [those with] younger kids – explain to them there’s no reason ever to go out there without an adult,” he said.

He said Ma’Liyah’s story hit close to home. After a Charleston firefighter pulled her out of the water and just before Lee administered CPR, he realized she looked familiar.

“[The firefighter] brings her over to me, I pull her up and look down and I immediately recognize she’s in my son’s class.” 

He has already made signs for their school.

“It’s a miracle she’s alive, and there’s a reason for it. I don’t know what that’s going to be but I figured by doing this, I can help be a part of that reason,” Lee said.

A benefit event will be held for the family on April 30 at the Charleston Elks Lodge. He’ll be selling the signs until the week before then. Those who would like to purchase one for $22 can do so on the Hurricane Creek Metal Works Facebook page. Lee will be donating $10 from every sale to the family. The family posts updates on Ma’Liyah’s recovery to a Facebook page called Ma’Liyah White’s Progress.