Shaq Donates Disability-Accessible Home to 12-Year-Old Paralyzed Boy

Former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal donated a new home to a 12-year-old Atlanta boy who was shot and paralyzed in August.

Isaiah Payton, 12, was one of two people injured during a shooting at a high school football game at Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta on August 17. A second boy, identified as 15-year-old Damean Spear, was shot in the leg.

Payton was left paralyzed from the chest down and will require long-term disability care, according to WGCL-TV. His mother, Allison Woods, told reporters that she quit her job to look after her son and was hoping to find a handicap accessible home.

Enter NBA star Shaquille O’Neal. After learning Payton would not be released from the hospital because his home was not handicap accessible, the beloved former basketball center turned sports analyst stepped in.

“I was watching the story and it’s just sad. It could have been any one of us. It could have been my son,” O’Neal told WXIA reporter Francesca Amiker. O’Neal said that no mother should have to go through what Woods’ is going through.

“It could’ve been your cousin and she was living in a one-bedroom house with her two boys so we found her a one-bedroom house in College Park. Nice area. I’m going to get her some Ring cameras on me. We’re going to give her some furniture, TVs, and pay her rent off for a year and help her get on her feet.”

O’Neal is getting assistance from Papa John’s CEO Roby Lynch and board chairman Jeff Smith. According to CBS News, O’Neal recently was named director of the Papa John’s board. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the City of Atlanta Fire Department are also supporting O’Neal’s effort, WXIA reported.

A GoFundMe account for Payton and his family has reached more than a quarter of its goal of $20,000. The account, which was launched on August 26, has raised nearly $7,000 at the time of publication.

Authorities arrested a 15-year-old boy in connection to the shooting on October 14 and charged him with aggravated assault. Police told WGCL they believe the boy was shooting at another person when Payton and Spear were struck. There may have been another shooter involved, police said.

“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,” Atlanta Police Department Chief Erika Shields said in a statement.

“Our investigators have worked relentlessly to make this arrest. I’m immensely proud of their determination in getting this individual off of the street and look forward to them finding the other shooter.”

Anyone with information about the shooting is urged to contact Crime Stoppers Atlanta at (404) 577-8477.

It is not the first time O’Neal has used his fame to help a Georgia teen. In May, O’Neal helped 13-year-old Zack Keith in a big way. The young basketball player wears a size 18 shoe and his mom could not afford his extra-large sneakers, so O’Neal bought the boy 10 pairs of size 18 shoes.

O’Neal, who wears a size 22, told WGCL that he could relate to Keith’s story.

“Mom couldn’t afford shoes. The kid had big feet. I just kind of reminisced about how that used to be me, my mom, and my dad,” he said.

WGCL and O’Neal partnered up to take Keith to Friedman’s Shoes, a shoe store in Atlanta known for carrying large shoes. “If they don’t come from Bruce and Freidman’s don’t show them to me,” O’Neal said.

Keith was able to meet his idol, practice some basketball moves together, and go shopping for all types of shoes. “I’m like, ‘Whoa, he wants to buy me shoes, out of all people?’” the 13-year-old told WGCL. His mother, Brittany Keith, said that the shopping haul will help her not worry about buying her son dress shoes.

“For me it was just very touching, very heartfelt, to know there is someone out there that has his back,” Brittany Keith said of O’Neal’s kind gesture.

O’Neal, meanwhile, said it was Friedman’s Shoes owner Bruce Teilhaber who inspired him to give back. “I thought this was a good thing to do,” O’Neal said. “Kid plays basketball, and Bruce did it for me, and I just want to return the favor.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.