Brain Injury Association of Kansas and Greater Kansas City says Ralph Yarl's recovery is 'inspiring'

Ralph Yarl
Posted at 9:44 PM, Apr 11, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Some people may know Ralph Yarl as a teenager who was shot in the head after going to the wrong door to pick up his siblings.

In the year since the shooting, Yarl, a Staley High School senior, is doing more than just recovering.

A clarinetist, Yarl became one of the rare students across the country to achieve the National Merit Commended Award.

The award is given to students who score in the top 3% on the preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship qualifying test.

He also was named to the Missouri All-State Band.

Ralph Yarl

Yarl also took the witness stand in court and faced Andrew Lester, the man accused of shooting him.

His family has shared about his aspirations and healing journey.

Ralph sent KSHB 41 a statement to share in his words what life is like for him now.

As we approach the one year milestone from that awful event, my life has bloomed in a way that I never could have envisioned. I have so many thanks to the community for the love, well wishes and support sent my way, and to the Brain Injury Association of Greater Kansas City for selecting me as their Memorial Day Run honoree. I’m one teenager hurt by a shooting and my heart and mind goes out to so many others shot and unheard. My hope is that justice will ultimately be served, and I’m encouraged by the increased priority on discourse about ending gun violence. Shooting as a first response to uncertainty or conflict should instead be resolved by using words, not weapons.

Ralph Yarl

His community now includes the Brain Injury Association of Kansas and Greater Kansas City (BIAKS-GKC).

The group connected Yarl's family with resources throughout Ralph's recovery.

 "Brain injuries do not discriminate to age," said Heather Pilkinton, executive director for BIAKS-GKC. "They’re gonna happen to us at any age and stage in life. Ralph and his journey has taken on a role of 'I’m going to move forward,' but he’s also really doing a great job of acknowledging the hard."

Ralph Yarl
Ralph Yarl with his aunt (left) Faith Spoonmore and mother (right) Cleo Nagbe.

Pilkinton said some people don't realize that a brain injury can be an invisible disability with a non-linear healing process.

"We have to sit in the yuck," she said. "It’s important to acknowledge the stuff that’s difficult, but also not live there, and I see that in Ralph. It’s inspiring."

Yarl thanked the Brain Injury Association for honoring him in their upcoming Memorial Day run, "Going the Distance for Brain Injury." The race was originally named after Amy Thompson, who was shot during an attempted robbery during a Halloween night in 1986.

If you want to join and support, click here to sign up for “Team Ralph”.

All proceeds will support the mission and operation of BIAKS-GKS.