LOS ANGELES - In 2005, Burley Dixon Jr lost his life when a man casually walked up to him and shot him. While the police believed that Burley was a victim of another sense-less gang shooting, Burley was not gang affiliated --- he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Burley’s death devastated his family. He was in town to replace a prosthetic leg he had been using since he lost a leg due to a bicycle injury when he was 10. The prosthetic leg had given Burley a new lease on life, and the young man had spent the years since the accident thriving. Burley’s mother, Ilsie Dixon, was determined to bring meaning to her son’s senseless death, and, that same year, she founded The Jr. Dixon Foundation to assist children and young adult amputees with the proper resources they need to obtain a prosthetic limb.
“I started the foundation because I wanted to change (lives) for the better one prosthetic at a time,” said Dixon. “I wanted to (honor) my son and help others in need of a prosthetic limb. I couldn't help my son then but I can help someone else now.”
The foundation works with the Alexander Orthopedic Lab, located in Inglewood, to provide the prosthetics. Additionally, the organization provides financial assistance with physical therapy, helps secure scholarships for achievements in high school and college, ensures parents and amputees receive counseling, and ensures that that guardians and educators understand the obstacles amputees have in life.
For Dixon, the transformative effect that the organization has on the lives of amputees makes it all worthwhile.
“I remember this one client who was so depressed after she lost a limb that she did not want to do anything,” said Dixon.
“She had so much fear and it was holding her back from getting out of her wheelchair. She just didn't believe she could still walk. She received counseling, physical therapy and over time finally put on her prosthetic. When she was finally able to walk across the room tears were running down her face and all she would say was, ‘I can walk, I can walk.’ You have no idea how much it touches your heart when you are able to effect someone else's life like that.”
In the past few years, the organization has expanded its work into the community, hosting several events that include an annual walk-a-thon and health-fair in April; a gospel musical in November; and a toy drive in December.
“The one thing that makes our organization unique is that we are here to service our community with their needs,” said Dixon. “This is our first and foremost concern. I am so proud of the steady growth of the foundation since its inception and the volunteers that come forth every year to help. (It makes me feel good to see) how the community has responded positively to the hard work and efforts of the foundation.”
Dixon envisions the foundation’s growing legacy to include the opening of a community resource center and hopes to raise more funds to provide more amputees with prosthetic limbs and to expand its Christmas toy drive to reach even more children.
It is a legacy that she knows Burley would be proud of.
“I am most proud of the fact that my son's memory is still alive and well in the hearts of my family, friends and the community,” said Dixon. “I want Burley to be remembered for the extraordinary young man he was. Burley touched so many people. One young man by the name of David shared with us how giving Burley was. He said they were both struggling students with nothing but Burley was always there to help with tutoring, sharing his last bowl of cup of noodles and just being a good friend. That's my boy.”