Well wishers greet Aimee Copeland in Villa Rica

by: Ashley Swann Updated:

CARROLL COUNTY, Ga. - Flesh-eating bacteria survivor Aimee Copeland visited West Georgia for the first time since the accident that nearly cost her her life on Saturday. Copeland attended the Celebration of Life festival that was held in her honor in Villa Rica. The event included a 63-mile benefit ride, as well as food vendors and live music.

Hundreds turned out for the chance to see Copeland in person. The crowd broke out in cheers Saturday as she took the stage. Copeland thanked them for their support. "This is such a beautiful surprise, to see this many people," she said.

This was the University of West Georgia graduate student's first visit to the area since losing her left leg, right foot and hands to a rare flesh-eating bacteria. Copeland told Channel 2's Ashley Swann it felt great to be back.

"This is a symbol, I think, of how much the West Georgia community has been here for me, and I'm just so grateful to everyone, everybody that's here. This is awesome," Copeland said.

The visit was emotional for many in attendance, but perhaps none more so than Ashley Warner, who herself is a victim of the same flesh-eating bacteria. Turner told Swann, "I had heard about it before I got sick, but never heard of anyone surviving it and making it and being a fighter. And Aimee is, and that makes me a very happy person."

Turner, who has endured 68 surgeries, says Copeland's courage has given her the confidence to finally accept her differences. "I didn't really want to go out in public. I really didn't want to show my arm to anyone. Now it doesn't bother me at all anymore," she said.

Copeland says meeting people like Turner inspires her, as well. She told Channel 2 Action News she's doing great, but still adjusting to her new life and working to get her independence back. "I want to finish my thesis. I want to be reading and filling up my brain with all kinds of knowledge, and I want to give back also. I want to use what I learned at West Georgia to help people in the future and help other people like me," she said.

All of the money raised from the event will go towards Copeland's medical expenses.