IMPACT – Brian O

Brian grew up in West Baltimore on Bentalou Street, off North Avenue. He was very athletic with a ton of potential in football, boxing, track and wrestling. He rejected the characterization that he fell in with a bad crowd. “I wouldn’t say that,” said Brian. “I would say that I made bad decisions. Like I tell my daughter, the crowds you’re with don’t determine the choices you make.”

Brian’s life was forever changed on September 6, 2008 when he became a survivor of gun violence. He went to pick up a female friend at a party. He waited in the parking lot for her but, after long enough, he went in to let her know he was there. There was another guy there who was hitting on his friend. When Brian was leaving with her, this guy made some disrespectful comments at both of them. After some verbal back and forth, people stepped in to stop a fight. Brian left with his friend.

They got in his car but Brian’s pride took over. “I just couldn’t let it go,” said Brian. “I drove back to the party where the guy and his friend were standing, waiting. They had it in their minds, if the opportunity presented itself, they were just going to shoot me.” Brian lowered his window and the guy’s friend pulled a gun. Brian floored the car. Brian was hit by three bullets, the first grazing his head and the second hitting his left leg. The third bullet hit him in the back, causing him to become paraplegic at 24. For Brian, an intense athlete, this left him struggling to find a way to remain active amidst new circumstances.

Yet 12 years later, his story continues to be one of strength. During physical therapy at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, Brian began to compete in hand-cycling marathons. After finishing in fourth place in the Baltimore Running Festival on a loaned bike, he had “an instant passion for handcycling.” Brian then reached out to IM ABLE to raise money for a handcycle of his own. Having his own handcycle would allow him to “get out there and train”, as well as use to bond with his daughter and connect with his friends through their shared passions. Through fundraising, Brian was awarded his own handcycle in December of 2020. Since then he has been racing nonstop around the country, including the USA Handcycling Paralympic Opening on April 17th in Alabama. In May, he will go on to Belgium to “race with the best.” “After Belgium, it’s Italy, Boise, Idaho, and Minneapolis, Minnesota”…I’m just all for the experience right now” Brian says.

Reaching out to IM ABLE “was more than just them giving me a grant, but me getting it off my back of telling my story and letting people know what happened to me,” Brian says. “It opened me up to telling it to people that don’t know me, to motivate them to get past something that happened to them that was so tragic.” People often ask him about his handcycle while he is training on different trails, and he is able to use his story to educate others about handcycling.

His fundraising page shared that one of his future goals, besides becoming an international Paralympian, is to start a business.  He is looking to start a business that involves mentoring and helping those with wheelchairs learn skills essential for everyday life, “just to make their lives easier because I’ve been through it all.” He wants those struggling, both physically and mentally, to know that he is there for them as they go through what he did.

Every fundraising update and email from Brian ends in the same statement “Stay Bless.” That phrase rings true in Brian’s personal mission: “I just want everyone to stay blessed and be blessed… Sometimes people don’t feel like they’re blessed, but if you’re alive and you’re going through hard times, you’re still blessed cause you’re alive. Even though I went through it, I’m still blessed to be here.”

Our generous donors and volunteers made this possible and we can’t thank them enough.