Disabled Florida ‘Superman’ Aspires to Inspire
Dec 27, 2013
A disabled man who faced an uphill climb against the damage resulting from his own personal demons is now using the image of the most iconic superhero ever to not only give himself a new lease on life, but to help other people with disabilities.
Thomas Mills III lost his leg in a drunk driving accident ten years ago when he crashed his motorcycle at 110 mph. An alcoholic, Mills also has a minor criminal record for such things as credit card theft, breaking and entering, criminal mischief, and burglary. After his accident, his leg was amputated below the knee, and he struggled with depression and deeper alcoholism, unable to find a path in life.
Says his friend, retired stock trader Richard Marino, “I think he’s been through a lot in his life, especially losing his leg at a relatively young age. I think he’s worked really hard at turning his life around. He goes so much out of his way to help people.”
When Mills viewed a YouTube video of a Tough Mudder endurance race, he got the inspiration to finally do something meaningful with his life. He decided to enter an obstacle course event in 2012, which required participants to dress as their favorite superhero. Determined to show that he could do it, Mills purchased a Superman costume and completed the race—by walking.
Following this event, he began to undertake other obstacle courses and eventually got a team together, called Superman Walks.
Now, the team has become the Superman Walks Project, funded by Mills’ own nonprofit, The Hero Within. Through such events as car washes and community fundraisers, he has now raised more than $12,000 to aid others to participate in obstacle course events. Following one last (hopefully) drunken driving encounter, Mills is now actively pursuing sobriety, and he intends to prove his efforts are legitimate by posting quarterly financial reports for his nonprofit, which will be audited by independent consultants. He says that he wants to have “total transparency, so people can see how every penny is raised and exactly where it goes.”
Mills is well aware that his project teeters on the brink due to his own past baggage, and he wants nothing more than to succeed and help others to overcome their own problems as well. He says, “I’m going to keep an open door to help anyone who comes knocking. It’s about showing them the potential everyone has inside them.”
Elizabeth Mills, who shares Thomas’s last name but is not related, knows how important the project is. Her son, whose name coincidentally is also Thomas, has spastic cerebral palsy, and is confined to a wheelchair. As such, he is unable to join in with his parents on one of their favorite pastimes—mud racing.
On June 29, the Superman Walks Project raised $5,600 to allow Tommy to participate in the Superhero Scramble in South Carolina. Volunteers pulled, pushed, and carried Tommy’s wheelchair through the mud, over walls, and even up a rope ladder.
Says Elizabeth, “Before I met Tom, I only dreamed of letting my kid do what able-bodied kids could. I was afraid of him dying.”
But after the race, her outlook changed. “He smiled so big, it made you cry,” she said. “And I almost took that from him. Now I’m like, we can do this!”
The video shows how Mills encourages others with aptitude and attitude. Is there someone who’s inspired you to dream bigger? We’d love to hear about it!