Barrett McKim, 12, has always been interested in learning, particularly science.

Whether reading or watching YouTube videos on the subject, his admiration grew and is something he’s been passionate about his entire life.

While most boys his age would run around the backyard with a football, it’s not uncommon to see Barrett dancing around the house with chemistry goggles, performing the latest experiment he’s just studied.

Barrett is the second born in a family of five siblings and is homeschooled in the small town of Highlands in the mountains of western North Carolina.

Aside from his gentle and loving personality, his father described him as “extremely cautious, very responsible, and a forward thinker.”

“That’s just part of his personality,” Barrett’s father, Kyle McKim, explained. “He’s the one who anticipates or watches out for his younger brothers because they’re too close to the pond or the edge of the deck, probably more than any of our kids.”

What happened next, however, was more of a freak accident than careless learning.

The morning began as it did most days in the McKim household.

Kyle McKim was at work about 12 minutes away from the family home, and the children were all at home with their mother during their summer vacation. Barrett wanted to learn even though school was out. He made the decision to conduct a science experiment in the front room of the house.

“He’s worked with a variety of rocks and minerals and enjoys heating them up,” McKim said.

Barrett was working with some fool’s gold on this particular day, testing things he had read about that would cause it to spark and change colors.

“This was not a schoolyard mishap.” “This was just Barrett being himself,” McKim explained.

While the family is unsure what caused the explosion, they do know that Barrett was using isopropyl alcohol as an accelerant to generate more heat.

“We’re not sure if that was caused by one of the sparks from the rocks or something with the Bunsen burner,” McKim explained. “We examined the lighter, which appears to have a faulty connection. We don’t really know what ignited the accident, but it exploded up into his face and is what created the burn.”

Barrett was burned on what doctors initially thought was 40% of his body when he arrived at the hospital. The body continues to burn, as is common with accelerants.

Doctors now estimate that he has burns on 50% of his body, with 20% being third-degree burns and 30% being second-degree burns. He has burns on his lower face, neck, entire front torso, arms, hands, shoulders, and the length of his thighs up to his knees.

“We are extremely grateful that he was wearing goggles during this accident because they did protect some of his face and, most importantly, his eyes,” McKim said. When the explosion occurred, it threw the accelerant and fire onto Barrett, who was unfortunately not wearing a lab coat but a synthetic shirt, compounding the problem as it caught fire.

Luckily, his mother was in another room and heard the explosion.

“Barrett bolts from the room, engulfed in flames. My wife was burned, some on her hands as well, while attempting to extinguish the fire and remove Barrett’s shirt “McKim stated.

She eventually succeeded by dragging him to the sink and soaking him in water. Barrett’s mother suffered severe burns to both hands but was able to save her son’s life. She frantically dialed 911 and sprayed water on Barrett until help arrived.

Barrett was rushed to a county soccer field about four miles away by paramedics. From there, he would be transported by air flight helicopter to the JMS Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Georgia.

A GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $72,000 for Barrett’s family. It also serves as a daily blog for family members to keep the world updated on his recovery.

There have also been comments praising Barrett for practicing and perfecting the art of science. Others are inspired by his story, pushing him never to stop learning and growing his knowledge for the thing he’s most passionate about – science.