A shooting encounter with a stranger left Wesley Hamilton paralyzed from the waist down. His journey inspired him to launch his non-profit Disabled But Not Really.
Wesley Hamilton is the founder of Disabled But Not Really, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering disabled folks through adaptive physical training and nutrition coaching. In this way, he helps people regain control over their lives. Prior to the pandemic, participants would meet twice a week for an hour to take part in his eight-week fitness program. They would also meet for nutrition seminars. Hamilton is disabled himself. After getting caught in an altercation with a stranger, he was paralyzed from the waist down. Determined to be a better father and a better person overall, he launched his non-profit, helping dozens of disabled folks, CNN reports.
The altercation took place in the year 2012. Hamilton got caught in an altercation with a stranger who shot him in the abdomen twice. Although he survived, he suffered a spinal cord injury which left him paralyzed from the waist down. A year later, he was diagnosed with a pressure ulcer on his tailbone due to extended hours of sitting. Therefore, he underwent six surgeries and spent the following two years confined to bed rest. During this time, Hamilton grew "dangerously overweight, depressed, and suicidal." Ultimately, he leaned on his daughter Navaeh, who became his lifeline.
"I laid on that ground taking my last breaths, having regrets about life because it wasn't until that moment that I realized I had never lived," he said in an interview with the news outlet. "I felt hopeless and useless. It defeated me. [At 24, I became] a single father in a wheelchair." He borrowed his motivation from his daughter. Hamilton explained, "I was determined to be a better person and a better father. My love for her is greater than she'll ever know. And that love inspired me to take control of my life." In order to do so, he enrolled in a community college and signed up for a nutrition course. After taking up a healthy eating regimen and weightlifting, he managed to lose 100 pounds in a year. He went on to become an award-winning adaptive athlete and is now a certified adaptive CrossFit instructor.
In 2017, he established Disabled But Not Really to help disabled folks take their health back into their own hands. While his group classes were suspended during the pandemic, Hamilton kept working with the participants of his eight-week program through private sessions. "People deserve to know they are more than their circumstances," he stated. "My purpose is to inspire. And it's to show people what happiness really looks like despite the adversity that you have to face." When gyms shut down due to the public health crisis, he transformed his garage into a gym, where he offers 12-week program that is personal training two days a week, as well as nutritional information seminars.
He shared, "I believe our work is very important right now because we are targeting a community of people that are at high-risk of so many things that our organization provides information and education for fitness and nutrition. With all of these changes happening, we want to continually be innovative. We want to go out to the community. We're launching a mobile trailer gym. It's our way of really making sure that everybody gets the same access. And our end goal is our own fitness center for people with disabilities." Fitness and nutrition are core components of Hamilton's programs, but he also helps the disabled on a deeper level.
"My main goal is to teach people how to take control of their life, take full accountability and embrace your reality despite the circumstances that you face," Hamilton affirmed. "When we go through our program, it's only the beginning. I want to be there through your whole journey because I want to see you [succeed]. Even though our training looks just like normal gym strength and conditioning, it's really reshaping the things that you can do in life. We make sure that we are attacking the mindset as well as tackling the physical aspect of the person we're helping. Allowing them to be vulnerable, to talk about their challenges, allows us to help them, and it gives them peace and makes their day more successful. I'm bringing people of all sorts together to be empowered by one another. It's a community of people that are different, but together we are the same. I believe that people everywhere that are differently-abled should experience that." If this trailblazer seems familiar to you, it may be because you caught him on an episode of the hit show Queer Eye. You can learn more about Hamilton and Disabled But Not Really through their website.