BATON ROUGE — A bronze-colored statue of the Madonna and Child sat by the hospital bed of Daniel Wesley, a Baton Rouge 17-year-old who captured the nation’s attention after he was shot and run over by a car while trying help a wounded woman on the side of the road in late November.
The statue, which once belonged to his great grandmother, was brought to the hospital by Wesley’s uncle and has become a reminder of the strong Catholic faith that not only binds this family together but also gives each member strength and hope for the future.
“Our faith is so important. It’s everything,” said Daniel’s mom, Kathy Wesley, a parishioner at St. Alphonsus Church in Greenwell Springs.
Kathy said that in addition to an extended hospital stay for her son, following at least two surgeries, he also will have to endure months of physical therapy, but she said his spirits are high and his competitive nature is making him determined to beat his doctor’s expectations.
She also appreciates all the prayers being said for her son and her family, especially prayer requests that began immediately on Facebook led by his godmother and members of the youth group at St. Alphonsus.
The prayers were instrumental in helping Daniel forgive his shooter, she said.
The shooter, 48-year-old Terrell Walker, was killed by police Nov. 27, but not before he reportedly shot Daniel twice and intentionally hit him with a vehicle for trying to render first aid to Walker’s girlfriend, 30-year-old April Peck.
According to police, Peck was shot and tossed onto the road by Walker. Despite receiving care from bystanders, including Wesley, and the first responders who quickly arrived on the scene, Peck later died that night.
Daniel was dubbed a good Samaritan for his actions but his mom said he was just doing what he knows.
Since Daniel’s dad is a retired emergency medical services official, it is in his blood to help people. It also helps that he had recently received advanced first aid training from a youth course.
His concern for others also extends to his family. Instead of dwelling on his pain, Daniel, a senior in high school, is encouraging those around him and helping to keep their spirits high.
“When I first saw him at the hospital, the first thing he told me was, ‘No tears, mom.’ Luckily, I had already cried as much as I could driving there,” she told The Catholic Commentator, newspaper of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.
Kyle Cutrer, who helps with many youth activities at St. Alphonsus Church, said he is not surprised that Daniel stopped to help someone in need.
“He’s a great kid. Daniel is that kind of kid that can be really loud when you first meet him, but immediately you also see he has a heart of gold,” he said.
Cutrer, a confirmation coordinator at St. Alphonsus, also serves on the leadership team with the diocesan youth board. He said Daniel has a natural penchant toward service, something that can be easily seen in his work as a senior mentor for the St. Alphonsus Youth Board.
“As part of the board, he helps plan our youth nights, prayer services and retreats and then leads them,” he said.
Since the incident, Cutrer said many youth group members have rallied to Daniel’s side, visiting him in the hospital and offering support.
The parish has held bake sales to help with the family’s medical expenses and fellow school students have sold plastic bracelets for the cause with the message: “Good people bring out the good in others #Wesley.” A GoFundMe page has been set up, too. Besides helping the family with medical expenses, some of the money raised will go toward repairs of their home damaged in the August floods.
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Smith is a reporter for The Catholic Commentator, newspaper of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.