When Bridger Walker jumped in front of a German Shepard last year to protect his sister from attack, the world hailed him as a hero.
But Bridger, who was only six years old at the time and needed 90 stitches to fix a wound on his face, simply explained his actions: “If anyone has to die, I think it’s me.”
Now, a year later, Bridger’s father, Robert Walker, tells PEOPLE that his son still stands by those words.
“My wife and I asked him, ‘Do you want it to go away?’ And he said, ‘I don’t want it to go away completely,'” the father of five recounts. “Bridger considers his scar something to be proud of, but he also doesn’t see it as a symbol of his act of bravery. He just sees it as, ‘I’m a brother and that’s what brothers do.’ It was a reminder that his sister wasn’t hurt and that she was fine.
“Sometimes he gets annoyed with being called a hero, because he [thinks], ‘Maybe I could have done more to protect her,'” he added sweetly about her 7 year old son.
It was that selfless attitude that won the hearts of millions around the world last July after Bridger, of Cheyenne, Wyoming, jumped into action to save her sister.
When his aunt, Nikki Walker, posted about the incident on Instagram, the unbelievable story went viral, with stars all over Hollywood — including the Avengers cast, Chris Evans (Captain America), Mark Ruffalo (The) Hulk) and Brie Larson (Captain Marvel) – all taking the time to praise the boy.
It’s not just celebrities. Strangers around the world who have heard about Bridger’s story are also writing to the boy and sending meaningful gifts to show their support.
Robert said: “It was all of a sudden when things went viral. “It’s not something we want to relive, but the light definitely overcame the darkness exponentially.”
“Chris Evans, his video was amazing and he sent the shield. Bridger couldn’t be happier,” he continued. “When he spoke to Tom Holland, he was probably the most surprised because it was a direct call so one definitely leaves an impression… His emotional recovery was truly an endeavour. around the world and that’s so special to us.”
Part of the attention Bridger garnered was from New York City-based dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali, who offered to take him to his office and get a free treatment.
“He gave us a lot of hope,” recalls Robert, who said he was just disappointed after a consultation with another doctor who said Bridger’s scar could not be treated in the future. at least two years. “It’s our first kind of rainbow after all this.”
The Walkers accepted Bhanusali’s offer and flew to New York, where Bridger underwent two laser procedures. As cross-country travel became difficult amid the pandemic, Bridger began seeing Utah-based dermatologist Cory B. Maughan, who performed two more procedures for him.
Since then, they’ve all helped ease Bridger’s scars — and bring his smile and spirit back.
“In a year, Dr Bhanusali and Dr Maughan were able to treat the scar almost completely,” says Robert. “Our main concern when coming home from the hospital was, ‘Will he ever smile again, or will he always look hurt?’ And now, seeing his smile bright again, that’s something we can hope for more than we could have expected because.”