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DALLAS It's been almost two years since the day a random drive-by shooting changed everything for Leonard Smith.

The Dallas teenager was filling up with gas 30 minutes after church when he was struck.

Today, Smith is proving that life is what you make it waking up every day with a positive attitude and the will to walk again.

Between push-ups and swimming laps, he is pushing his body to new limits. He has to.

A bullet changed his life, paralyzing him from the waist down.

It went in, and then it hit my lungs, busted a vein by my heart, and then to my spinal cord, Smith said.

We'd just come from church. This was less than 30 minutes after we'd come from church, so he wasn't even hanging out, added Redonna Toliver, the young man's grandmother.

The random and senseless shooting doesn't anger Smith; it motivates him.

There is a lot of stuff that is possible, he said. You just have to put your mind to it and try.

And so he does at Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation, where Smith has become kind of a legend.

He has come a long way from being bed-ridden and unable to sit up.

We've used him as a role model for a lot of other patients who have spinal cord injuries, which is very motivating to other patients, said therapist Kimberly Khan.

Smith's inspiration is especially important for younger patients, filled with hope for the future.

Seeing his growth every day keeps me strong, said Smith's mom, Alicia Smith. It makes me able to face the day.

Leonard's struggle also provided a lesson to his grandmother. He has taught me tenacity, to never give up, Toliver said. He's taught me to stay encouraged despite adversity.

One day, Leonard Smith hopes to walk again. But while he looks ahead, he's happy with how far he's come.

I'm fine now, how I am, I'm fine, he said. But if I walk, that would be great, too.

The day he walks, I will shout; I will shout all over this place! Toliver said.

And that joy will remind everyone at the rehab center that hope is a powerful thing.

E-mail sslater@wfaa.com

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