Extraordinary: The Bill Atkinson Story

Extraordinary: The Bill Atkinson Story

Mon, 01/25/2021 - 9:00pm - 9:30pm

Photo: Bill Atkinson

Credit: Courtesy of the Atkinson family

This film recounts the inspiring life of Father Bill Atkinson (1946-2006), who was paralyzed as a teenager and went on to become the first quadriplegic priest in the U.S.

A sledding accident at the age of 19 changed his life forever, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. Extraordinary: The Bill Atkinson Story airs Monday, January 25, 2021 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV, and on Thursday, January 28 at 7 p.m. on WXXI-WORLD.

This documentary is presented as part of Dialogue on Disability, a partnership between WXXI and Al Sigl Community of Agencies that celebrates people with differing abilities.

In a time before the Americans With Disabilities Act, Bill persevered, using a motorized wheelchair to move around, and relying on friends and family for assistance. After nearly a decade in the seminary, Bill was finally granted a special dispensation from Pope Paul VI and ordained in 1974. For almost 30 years, Father Bill worked at a Friary and a Catholic High school in Pennsylvania, where he taught theology, served as a chaplain, and helped out as a mentor for the football team. A rock of his community and a living example of the power of faith and determination, the Augustinian order submitted papers to Rome for his posthumous canonization. Using interviews, archival footage and stills, Extraordinary: The Bill Atkinson Story portrays a man who transformed a seemingly insurmountable challenge into a driving force to make a difference in the lives of those he touched.

Dialogue on Disability, an initiative founded by WXXI and Al Sigl Community of Agencies in 2003, celebrates people with differing abilities and promotes a more inclusive community. Presenting a week’s worth of TV and radio specials, news reports, and interviews on WXXI’s daily talk show, Connections with Evan Dawson, the initiative is designed to encourage community discussion about the perspectives and abilities of people with physical and intellectual disabilities. Dialogue on Disability runs January 25-31.

For a complete list of programs and other offerings, visit WXXI.org/dodDialogue on Disability is a partnership between WXXI and Al Sigl Community of Agencies - in conjunction with the Herman and Margaret Schwartz Community Series. The initiative is supported by the Fred L. Emerson Foundation with additional support from The Golisano Foundation.