Showing that he has a heart as big as his feet, Shaquille O’Neal recently donated a home to an Atlanta woman whose 12-year-old son was shot and paralyzed from the chest down.
The basketball superstar learned that Isaiah Payton and his family were living in a one-bedroom apartment inaccessible for people with disabilities. Back in August, Payton’s spine was injured by a stray bullet in an act of violence after a football game between Mays and Carver High Schools. Another student, Damean Spear, was also injured in the shooting.
“This was a reckless, heartless and cowardly act of violence that forever changed the life of a 12-year-old child and his family and deeply affected another juvenile,” said Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields at the time of the shooting.
Struggling to care for her now-paralyzed son, Payton’s mother Allison Woods had to leave her job to assist him in everyday activities at the hospital. This put the family in a financial crisis and unable to move back home.
“It’s just sad,” O’Neal said of the situation. “It could have been any one of us. It could have been my son. It could’ve been your cousin. She was living in a one-bedroom apartment with her two boys, so we found her a house in a nice area.”
“I reached out to the family because I wanted to see the son and I said he’s not going to release the sign until she’s able to move on the first floor. So, we found her a house. I’m going to pay her rent for the year and I’m going to give her some furniture and it’s sad because her son is paralyzed from the chest down and no mother should have to go to that,” O’Neal said in an interview.
CEO of Papa John’s Pizza Rob Lynch and chairman of the board of Papa John’s, Jeff Smith, also contributed. The City of Atlanta Fire Department is providing a budget for the year and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is also adding support.