JACKSON COUNTY -- Zander Saucier, a 3-year-old critically injured allegedly at the hands of his father, will be the featured guest at a meet and greet Saturday that relatives and friends helped organize as a way to say thanks to the community for their support.
The gathering is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Clarence Johnson Jr. Memorial Sports Complex, in Harrison County next to Three Rivers Elementary School on Three Rivers Road.
"We wanted to give the many people who have expressed their love and concern an opportunity to meet him," said Jimmy Spears, a relative Zander affectionately calls Unc. "We want them to see how well their prayers worked. This is not a fundraiser of any kind for him. This is just a fun day so that the people who want to meet Zander can do so."
Zander's father, Nathan Blake McCrory, 24, is jailed in Jackson County on charges of felony child abuse and marijuana cultivation in the case. A Jackson County investigator said Zander was unconscious with his eyes swollen shut when he arrived by ambulance to Singing River Hospital on April 10. Zander, he said, had at least 30 injuries, which included cigarette and lighter burns, a bleed to the boy's brain, a collapsed lung and lacerated liver along with bruising to his body, including on his forehead. He also had an injury to his penis that produced blood, the investigator said.
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McCrory brought the injured child to his mother at her job and she dialed 911 for a ambulance to take the boy to Singing River Hospital for treatment. From there, Zander was airlifted to USA Women's and Children's Hospital, where he remained for seven days. McCrory did not go to the hospital with his son.
When additional details about Zander's injuries came out in a preliminary hearing in May, Spears said it was hard to hear it all over again.
"It just seems like we are moving on, then another step in the legal process comes up and reopens the wounds," he said. "It's just painful to have to hear it all again and again. We just want to get to the end and let the healing process go uninterrupted."
McCrory and his family claims the boy fell down a flight of stairs at his McCrory's home and was never abused.
"Outwardly," Spears said, "he (Zander) seems fine -- a typical 3-year-old boy," but he is still undergoing treatment.
Since the incident, South Mississippi residents have reached out to show their support for Zander, buying Team Zander T-shirts, donating money to help cover Zander's medical expenses, donating food and offering prayers.
Emily Saucier, Zander's mother, has been by his side since he was first hospitalized.
Since then, several businesses and groups, including churches and the organization, Bikers Against Child Abuse, have rallied around Zander to provide support.
In addition to Saturday's meet and greet, Zander will be the featured guest at Team Zander Day at MGM Park on June 10 when he arrives by helicopter and throws the first pitch at the Biloxi Shuckers game. The event starts at 7:10 p.m. Papa Johns in Gulfport and Biloxi is selling tickets to the event for $12, with $5 from each ticket sale going to Zander's family.