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Kansas City man shot and paralyzed in 2012 inspires others to embrace their challenges

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Side shot of Black male with short hair and full beard seated in a wheelchair with its front wheels off the ground. He is smiling at the camera and is wearing a denim-blue jacket, khaki pants and blue athletic shoes.
Disabled But Not Really Facebook
Wesley Hamilton survived a gunshot wound that left him paralyzed from the waist down. He went on to start the nonprofit Disabled But Not Really.

Wesley Hamilton's nonprofit, Disabled But Not Really, assists those with disabilities to find their identity.

In 2012, Wesley Hamilton survived a gunshot wound that left him paralyzed from the waist down. At first, having to use a wheelchair caused him to fall into a deep depression. But that changed when he decided to take control of his life for his daughter, Nevaeh.

Investing in fitness and nutrition allowed him to ultimately turn things around and even compete as an adaptive bodybuilder.

For the last six years, Hamilton has been executive director of the philanthropic organization he started, Disabled But Not Really, spreading positivity and hope to the disabled community.

"We're geared to helping people with disabilities create their own identity in this society," says Hamilton. "We focus on programs that are geared through fitness and nutrition... and ways that we can, kind of, attack the mindset to help with that creation of identity."

Last month, Hamilton made an appearance on Good Morning America during which the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation surprised Hamilton with an astounding $1 million donation. He believes the new funding significantly amplifies Disabled But Not Really's mission.

"It just didn't feel real. I think to this day I'm still processing it," admits Hamilton.

During his appearance on Up To Date, Wesley Hamilton also recalled his 2019 appearance on the Netflix show "Queer Eye," during which he met the man who shot him. Hamilton says he had forgiven the shooter years before and didn't need an apology.

"I'm smiling ear to ear... it just shows growth, understanding, accountability," Hamilton says after hearing a recording of the encounter.

"I just felt more empowered listening to it again. Y'know, because it was a very organic and authentic conversation. And, we both had time to think, but we both had time to grow."

When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
Reginald David is an assistant producer with Up To Date. You can reach him at reginalddavid@kcur.org.
As Up To Date’s associate producer, I construct daily conversations that give our listeners context to the issues of our time. I strive to provide a platform that holds those in power accountable, while also spotlighting the voices of Kansas City’s creatives and visionaries that may otherwise go unheard. Email me at zach@kcur.org.