It's both tragic and beautiful. Nate Waters, 33, was 19 when he got into a fight with his mother's boyfriend. That monster broke his neck. The doctors told him he'd never regain the use of any limbs, but Waters disagreed. Waters is brimming as he recounts this. This is a man who does not accept defeat.
But to do the proper rehab, required regular visits to a clinic in St. Louis and a financial investment far beyond his means. So he reached out to others, over a hundred others. One by one, all turned him down. Discouraged and admittedly intimidated, he wrote "Mr. Pickens." Who came through, assuming all rehab and equipment costs -- over $80,000 to date. Waters is now Boone's guest in Boone's suite.
"Hope," Waters says emphatically. "Boone gave me hope. I was on 'E' when Boone came into my life. For a business maven like Boone to identify with an inner city kid from Chicago like me, that was inspiration." Waters proudly waves the arms he was told he'd never move. "And I'm not done yet!" he beams.
I ask Boone if there are others. He shrugs. In fact, there are others -- an endless list of others. There are medical institutions nationwide funded by him. Brain centers. Cancer centers. Eye centers. Hospitals. For youngsters, there are educational programs; for the elderly there are retirement communities; and in between, for those in-need, there are all manner of shelters, mentoring programs, activity centers, meals-on-wheels and the like.
Museums have benefited, so have public policy groups and botanical gardens, too. And there is money -- lots of money -- for dozens of military groups, especially for wounded warriors. That one tugs fiercely at this man.
How much in all? I ask. Boone smiles and answers quietly, "This year we'll hit the billion mark." Yes, as in $1 billion in gifting. "And since I turned 70, I've paid $700 million more in taxes." Then he adds almost in disbelief: "And they're saying I haven't done my fair share?"
I don't know if my old friend Boone considered ours a private chat -- the hell with it. Think about this charity, you Occupied Do-Nothings, the next time you bash the 1 percent that have been so instrumental in helping you in more ways than you'll ever know -- or appreciate.
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