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Inside Adaptive Athlete Wesley Hamilton’s Inspiring Health and Fitness Journey

Photo: Courtesy of Sonae Photography

Hamilton fought depression, focused on his family, got fit and says he’s stronger than ever. Now he wants to empower other people with disabilities to be their best selves, too.


New perspective

Hamilton grew up on the east side of Kansas City in a poverty stricken, high-crime neighborhood. He says he was a product of his environment and wasn’t happy. 

Then he was shot multiple times in his abdomen on January 14, 2012. He had six surgeries and was confined to his bed for 21 hours a day. He was depressed, and — at 5-foot-4, 250 pounds — out of shape. 

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Hamilton knew he had to change, so he focused on what mattered most: being active for his daughter, who he gained sole custody of right before his injury. He took a dietitian course at a local community college, then, after a year of healthy eating, lost 100 pounds. 

After his last surgery in January 2015, Hamilton decided to start Disabled But Not Really (DBNR), a non-profit committed to providing equal access to the underserved disabled community, including programs focusing on fitness, wellness, and mental health. The goal is to help people with disabilities become more active and healthier so they can live their best lives

“I did something I never knew a person with a disability could do,” Hamilton said. “And that was to not only lose weight, it was to feel good about a position that might not have made you feel so great about it when it first happened.”


Next, Hamilton started exercising, including doing CrossFit and becoming an adaptive athlete. He instilled his physical limitless mindset through fitness and nutrition. 

“Now, not only am I in the best shape ever, I have trophies and I have like all these different platforms I’ve been on,” he said.

Looking back, Hamilton says he’d tell his younger self, “Man, get ready for this journey because your life is about to be amazing. You’ve just got to face adversity first.”

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Creating your identity

Hamilton, now 32, wants to encourage people with disabilities to see their potential, too.

“I try to teach people how not to let their struggle identify them, but instead to find a way to control those things you’re struggling with and then create your own identity,” he said.

After his injury, Hamilton first started working out at a rehab facility where they had adaptive exercise equipment and professionals who could show him how everything worked. But not all gyms have that equipment. DBNR is fundraising to build an inclusive and accessible facility.


“What I want to do on a larger scale is heal these communities, do the things that I know healed me,” said Hamilton, who shared his story on “Queer Eye” and “Celebrity Family Feud.”

Hamilton is grateful to work out in his home gym and advises other people with disabilities to get outside every day, especially during COVID-19, which has been a challenging time. He says being outdoors can help your mood, help you think less about any physical pains you may be experiencing, and build self-confidence. 

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Empowering people 

Hamilton wants to support the broader black community as well. He knows firsthand what it’s like to struggle and endure systemic racism. He’s raising his 10-year-old daughter and looking out for two kids in need: a black 13-year-old amputee, and a 6-year-old biracial child who is paralyzed.

He says he’s confident with his disability and ready to help others. 


“I’ve also been confident enough to be a black man in America, and use that ability to not be hateful or judge, but also to use it to empower people to be confident with who they are, so that they can live their lives the way I live: happy, humble,” he said.

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