On 17 August 2019, 12-year-old Isiah Payton was shot on his way home from a football high school scrimmage. A stray bullet struck Isiah, paralyzing him from the chest down.
Shaquille O’Neal had heard about the story and had decided to step up. It was just around that time that Shaq made it his mission to help the ones in need. And there was no one in bigger need than a 12-year-old Isiah.
I’m going to make people smile more. I’m going to take care of people I don’t know. Just make their day.Shaquille O’Neal, 11Alive
What O’Neal did was more than just making someone’s day. After Isiah’s mother, Allison Woods, quit her job to take care of her son, Diesel decided to help her get back on her feet. Shaq donated a house fully equipped for Isiah’s disabilities, making sure that the kid has somewhere to go to once he leaves the hospital.
It’s just sad. I was watching the story, and it’s just sad. It could’ve been any one of us. Could’ve been my son. And the fact that she was living in a one-bedroom apartment with her two boys, so we found her a house in College Park — nice area. I’m going to get her some Ring cameras on me, and we’re going to get her some furniture, some TV’s and I’m going to pay her rent off for a year.Shaquille O’Neal, 11Alive
Roby Lynch, the CEO of Papa John’s, and Jeff Smith, the chairman of the board of Papa John’s, also made their contributions, as O’Neal was named to Papa John’s board of directors just months before this horrific event had transpired.
Later that year, Shaq paid a visit to Isiah while he was still in the hospital. Him helping the family hadn’t only been of a tangible nature. Instead, Diesel developed relationships with them and did his best to put a smile on their faces.
That was his mission all along – to ‘make people smile more and take care of them.’ Shaq did both things, proving once again he really is larger than life.