Thursday night Just Before Six, NewsCenter 16 brought you the final chapter to its three-part investigative series, "The True Payout to Panhandling."
If you've been following along this week, you'll remember Tuesday’s report when Kevin Lewis went undercover as a beggar. In just eight hours, Kevin received $300 in donations.
Through NewsCenter 16’s partnership with the Salvation Army, that sum of money was donated to South Bend resident Brandon Link.
Link, a father of four young girls, is the first to acknowledge his rough past. But after being released from prison last year, he's been undoubtedly committed to a new future.
Link works as a construction wireman, a job that is just barely keeping him from homelessness.
"There are 1,000 guys out there wishing they could have my job and I don't blame them,” Link said.
In effort to keep his bills paid, Link worked, labored, and worked some more, until Aug. 1 of this year.
"It had to have been the worst day of my life,” Link recalled.
It was 4 p.m. along the 2500-block of Bertrand Street. Link was at home with two of his daughters when he saw four men dealing drugs in a white sedan. He went outside to confront them with words, but one of the men chose to end things with a bullet.
Paramedics rushed Link to Memorial Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. For the next two days, Link was in a coma, doctors said he'd likely never walk again.
"The bullet entered my left abdomen. It then shot through my colon, intestines, and spine before coming out of my back,” Link recalled.
Although Link’s outer wounds have healed, many of his inner nerves are beyond repair.
"I can't feel my entire left leg or my foot. This is my right foot and I can spread the toes and move them and what not. Now look at my left foot. This is as much as I can do with it,” Link said as he demonstrated his lack of muscle control.
So as perfectly capable people panhandle for free handouts, disabled folks like Link lug prescription drugs in their work cart, just to get through their day.
"You've been through such a difficult time in your life and a difficult tragedy. We wish you only the very best, Merry Christmas and God bless you," said Major Bob Webster with the Salvation Army as he gave Link the $300 in donations.
In a day where bad abounds, this story reminds us that some still do our world good.
"No matter what I've been through, no matter how bad I'm hurting, no matter how many obstacles I've had to climb, I go home and smile because I did it,” Link concluded.
Link plans to use his $300 donation to buy gifts for his four daughters, who until this week, weren’t going to receive presents this Christmas.
NewsCenter 16 wants to thank the more than three-dozen drivers who stopped to donate to Kevin Lewis while he begged undercover. It's always our intent to be fully transparent, but there are those select occasions, like this one, where to get the full truth, a disguise is required.