Host Ellen DeGeneres introduced Emeka Nnaka on Thursday’s episode of her show by telling viewers that 50 different people had written to her about him. Nnaka was paralyzed from the chest down when playing semi-pro football at 21 years old. Now 30, he is a motivational speaker and advocate for people with disabilities.
Nnaka thought he was just taking a tour of DeGeneres’ studio when she surprised him by bringing him on stage. He spoke to the host about his injury, and how volunteering for a local youth group and shelter turned things around for him and gave him “purpose again.”
“It was working with kids that really, honestly turned everything around. It took the attention off of me, and I put it on other people,” Nnaka shared, adding, “Working with these kids really showed me what life really is about. It’s not about me, it’s about we.”
Nnaka unfortunately has fallen on hard times recently. His van was damaged, his father and primary caregiver broke his ankle, and he lost his apartment in a fire. “That doesn’t seem fair at all,” DeGeneres told him. She then surprised him with a check for $100,000 as part of Cheerios’ “One Million Acts of Good” campaign.