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A Gillette man has created a non-profit to help those with disabilities

Aaron McKillop
Say We Won't Gives

A Gillette man has created a non-profit foundation that aims to help the disabled find hope and better enjoy life while learning to live with a disability. They are planning to do this by organizing outdoor trips for those with disabilities.

Say We Wont Gives was created last March by Aaron McKillop, who is paralyzed from the waist down after a motocross accident in 2014.

“Basically, I over jumped a jump and landed on the face of the next jump,” McKillop said. “I hit it so fast, when we hit the ground, when the bike impacted, my knees ended up buckling and the seat of the motorcycle came up to where it hit my tailbone and it compressed my back. It took the T12 vertebrae and burst it into little pieces and popped it into the spinal canal.”

McKillop said he knew instantly that he was paralyzed as he lay face-down on the track. He was taken to the hospital in Gillette before he was quickly life-flighted to Denver. He had to have surgery and therapy, which insurance largely covered. But he had to retrofit his house to accommodate a wheelchair.

The Gillette community came together and donated the funds for the retrofit.

But even with the financial aspect taken care of, depression soon set in as McKillop began to navigate life with a disability.

“You come home, [and] it’s rough,” he said. “It’s really about a six-month point [in] my experience [and] it really started dropping down, and then really at that 18-month point, I would call it the low point where you want to be done. You’re done with life, what’s the point of living in this thing [a wheelchair]?”

McKillop said he threw himself into his work at a family-owned contracting business during this period, which he claims helped take the focus off his disability and reduced the pain he felt in his legs.

McKillop’s first thoughts of launching a non-profit began in 2015. But he said he didn’t think about it seriously until driving back from Moab, Utah in early 2021.

“It hit me listening to the song ‘Say I Won’t’ by MercyMe as we were coming up out of Casper on I-25 [in] that how blessed I was to have not only the financial means to do it but also have the core group of friends I have that help me do it,” McKillop said.

McKillop, several friends, and their spouses have gottenSay We Wont Gives off the ground. He took the name from the MercyMe song but changed it to reflect his goal of making the foundation’s mission an inclusive one. This includes changing the ‘I’ in ‘Say I Won’t’ to ‘we.’

“We want to be able to take the people who are in a mental stage, we want to give them hope, but we, also, want to be able to bring them and a couple family members,” McKillop said. “We want to do an all-inclusive paid trip to get them out here to show them that life didn’t end.”

Say We Wont Gives is still in the very early stages and must be insured before helping other disabled people. McKillop said that he hopes to be fully insured in the next two months, and that these payments will cost approximately $5,500 per year. Only then will the foundation be able to help the disabled. Once this is complete, he’d like to start with disabled people in the local community.

“Once we get the money to do the insurance, then we’ll start getting these applications going,” he said. “It sounds like it’s going to be a scholarship…kind of what we’re looking at. We want to get a couple people out yet this year for the summer, late fall 2022—we want to get the miles out this year.”

Some of the proposed locations to take participants include the Big Horn mountains, the Black Hills, and even southern Utah, such as the St. George area.

McKillop would like to eventually give Say We Wont Gives a national reach, helping those with all types of disabilities. Similar initiatives he says have often focused on a specific group or set of the disabled community, such as veterans. But he wants to expand the focus to include everyone from anywhere nationwide with a disability.

So far, approximately $22,000 has been raised to help with the foundation’s objectives.Donations can be submitted on their website.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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