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KC man turns disability into catalyst for change

'Disabled But Not Really'
Posted at 7:55 PM, Dec 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-05 11:37:25-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Wes Hamilton is a lot of things. He’s a loving father. In fact, his 9-year-old daughter Nevaeh views him as invincible.

“He’s my hero," Nevaeh said.

To the Kansas City community, he represents change. 41 Action News caught up with Hamilton early one Saturday, where dozens of volunteers, including Katie Kopp, donated their time to help those less fortunate.

"We come back every time. He (Wes) wants to give back to the community like we all do," Kopp said.

Father, community activist, and motivational speaker.

Earlier that week Wes gave a Ted X talk to hundreds in Overland Park, Kansas. What you may not know about Wes Hamilton is that he is "Disabled, But Not Really."

“This young black kid, coming from the east side of Kansas City. I’d probably be dead or in jail if this never happened to me,” he said.  

In 2011, Hamilton was shot several times while walking to his car. It was five days before his 24th birthday.

“Staring at a man I never knew a day in my life and, before I could react, I saw the flash of a gun. And my body instantly collapsed. Where I come from, I thought I was dead," Hamilton said.

Wes Hamilton suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed. But Hamilton feels that’s the moment his life truly began.

“I was paralyzed mentally before I was ever paralyzed physically.”  

Hamilton also considers the gunman a friend who did him a favor by shooting him. 

Hamilton didn’t always have high regard for the gunman, or his situation. At one time, he was depressed, paralyzed, and had a tube in his throat. He spent weeks in ICU. All this, just days after he gained custody of his then two-year-old daughter.

“The biggest regret was, I couldn't provide this life for my little girl," Hamilton said.

Hamilton said he knew it was time for a change.

“Being paralyzed, everybody disappeared. Nobody was around, and the moment I felt alone, was the moment I found myself."

In April 2015, Hamilton created “Disabled, But Not Really.” It’s a non-profit focused on raising awareness about spinal cord injuries, while instilling confidence, competence and courage in those who are disabled, but not really.

Through the organization, Hamilton has also organized monthly cleanups, and organized events like “Hydrate the Homeless,” where Wes, his daughter, and several volunteers provide clothes, toiletries, snacks and water to those in need.

He also gives Ted Talks.

“This is a message I’m able to give my daughter now and when she comes in and says, 'Daddy, I’m mad at these little girls and stuff.’ And I’m like, that’s fine, but remember what Daddy did? Remember, I can’t walk.”

Wes Hamilton faces adversity every time he wakes up, yet he still finds a way to make a Safer KC.

“We’re supposed to love each other. That’s how we make not only a Safe KC, that’s how we make a safe world."