Meet Mekhi.

He was 8-years-old when he was shot and paralyzed while attending a baby shower in Englewood in 2019.

The bullets weren’t intended for him. They were meant for someone down the street. But that’s the thing about bullets. They don’t consider innocence or intent.

Mekhi was one of 238 kids shot in Chicago that year who survived. WGN Investigates reviewed police data that found the number of juveniles 17 and younger climbed to 324 in 2020 and 374 in 2021 before declining slightly last year.

“It happens so commonly and it happens every day that no one cares: ‘Just another black kid shot,” his mom Miranda Randle-McGruder said.

Mekhi’s message to those doing the shooting: “Instead of going and trying to hurt someone you should first try to go and love someone. You can ruin their life; but my life is not ruined.”

The victims of gun violence in Chicago are increasingly some of the city’s youngest residents.  Police data show 59 juveniles shot – and eight killed – since 2019 were under the age of 12.

“Every other day there is a black child being shot in Chicago,” Mekhi’s mother said. “Every other day and nobody cares until it happens in Highland Park or Westmont or Naperville.”

Today, Mekhi is an avid swimmer whose hard work and perseverance during physical therapy inspired the staff Shirley Ryan Ability Lab to create an entire swim team.

His team of therapists marvel at his advances while knowing other shooting victims have an even more difficult path.

“Mekhi has a very supportive family and I think his attitude, his work ethic allow him to get through his own journey and allows him to succeed,” said Juliana Libertine.

Everyone who knows him agree: Mekhi’s experience (and attitude) make him the exception rather than the rule.

He’s also lucky to have survived. An increasing number of kids 17-years-old and younger are dying after being shot in Chicago. 35 juveniles were shot and killed in Chicago in 2019, while that number climbed to 59 last year.

“Everyone always thinks it’s not going to happen to them and in a blink of an eye, it happened to us,” Mekhi’s father Craig McGruder said.

“Our life has changed but we won’t ever say for the worse because Mekhi is here,” his mom observed while watching him prepare for water therapy with a huge grin on this face. “There are a lot of people whose kids were shot recently and they’re not living. So I’m blessed.”

A GoFundMe has been set up to help Mekhi and his family. For more information, click here.