WAKE FOREST, N.C. (WNCN) — A Wake Forest high school student who was badly burned playing with spray paint and fire has a message for other teens. Mason Dark is out of intensive care, but still at UNC Hospital being treated for burns across his body.

It’s a message we’ve all heard before, but Mason Dark gives it new meaning.

“Just don’t play with fire,” the 16-year-old said.

Sitting outside UNC hospital, still bandaged, with a feeding tube and dealing with pain, he said he wants to share his story.

“I wanted to share my story and make sure no kids end up the same way as me.”

Four weeks ago, life changed for the high school football player.

“It all happened in about 5-10 seconds,” Mason Dark said.  

He was hanging out with a group of friends on the Wake Forest greenway, jumping into the river. He said he was also playing with spray paint and a lighter.

“I had a spray paint can and I was spraying it, and there was another spray paint can on the ground; I had a lighter in my other hand,” he said. “The one that was on the ground it combusted, so I lit up in flames.”

He jumped in the water to put out the fire. His friends helped him get out of the river and called 911.

“I remember being on the ground asking people for water…bystanders that ride their bikes on the Greenway trail…I would ask them for a water, just to pour on my skin,” Mason Dark said.

That’s where his memory fades, but his mom will never forget the weeks of fear as doctors fought to keep Mason Dark alive.

“He was in serious, critical condition. His lungs took a turn for the worse and they had to rush him down from the burn center to the pediatric ICU,” Holli Dark said. “It was serious, really quick.”

His mom is thankful to see his smile again.

“Walking and talking and back to my normal 16-year-old,” Holli Dark said.

Mason Dark still has a long road ahead, but he also has a new appreciation for the friends who come to visit, the strangers contributing to his GoFundMe Page and the doctors and nurses helping him heal.

“They’re taking good care of me,” Mason Dark said.

Fighting through pain to share his story, Mason said he hopes he’ll make a difference.

“Don’t do stupid things,” he urged. “Don’t play with fire.”