Kansas City man behind disability nonprofit named to CNN’s 2021 Heroes list

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City man is in the national spotlight for his work for people with disabilities. 

A shooting in 2012 left now 33-year-old Wesley Hamilton paralyzed. He now spends his time empowering other people with disabilities to change their lives for the better through his organization Disabled But Not Really

“I acquired my disability at the age of 24, and it was hard for me to accept it just due to the outlook and perception that I had prior to my injury,” Hamilton said. 

After years of depression following his injury, he started focusing on health and fitness. Hamilton lost more than 100 pounds and competed in bodybuilding competitions.

In 2017, he started Disabled But Not Really, a nonprofit to help empower others. 

“We work with people with physical disabilities. Age range is not an issue,” Hamilton said. “My goal is to help you push past your mental limits that are based on society’s norms and teach you how to be unstoppable within your own life and create a better way of independence for yourself.” 

Now his work has landed him a spot as one of CNN’s 2021 Heroes, which recognizes everyday people changing the world.

“I’m always truly blown away because a lot of things that I showed them no one has ever done,” Hamilton said. “We’ve worked with children that have been born with a disability, and at the age of 16 they’re finally starting, and our doors are opening, just because they came to us and our organization.” 

Due to COVID-19, he’s been operating out of his garage, but he hopes the attention from CNN can help propel his organization forward. 

“I made my garage into a gym because I really wanted to show people what my vision was,” Hamilton said. “We have started to look at other partnerships with local gyms that really align with our mission. Our end goal is to have our own facility.” 

Hamilton is working on a mobile gym so his organization can reach more people in need. 

“We could go out into the communities that lack the resources, that lack business facilities, that lack understanding, and be able to empower them and meet them where there are a lot of organizations that want to serve,” Hamilton said. 

On May 20, Disabled But Not Really is hosting a gala with an adaptive fashion show at Arrowhead Stadium.

“There are a lot of barriers, not only in my city, but mostly in my city, that stops me from actually making the impact that I want to make because of the lack of accessibility,” Hamilton said. “If we don’t raise awareness, people continue to sweep it under the rug. I refuse for that to happen because there are so many people that want to live an independent life.” 

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