If you’ve competed in any races in Canada in the past 10 years, chances are you’ve had some help from Andre Okenge, though you might not realize it. Nineteen years ago, Okenge escaped the Rwandan genocide, found his way to Canada and has been employed Sportstats, the race-timing company, ever since. On Oct. 23, as reported by iRun, Okenge’s 19-year-old son, Stephane, was a passenger in a serious car accident in Nebraska, where he plays basketball, resulting in a spinal cord injury that has left him a quadriplegic (paralyzed from the shoulders down).
Stephane remains in intensive care at Bryan Medical Center West Campus in Lincoln, Neb., with severe damage not only to his spine but also to the surrounding tissues, including some of the muscles he uses to breathe. (He needed to be intubated following the accident.)
— iRunNation (@iRunNation) November 1, 2022
The young basketball player was a freshman at York University in York, Neb., 60 km west of Lincoln. His passion for basketball began when he was a youngster living in Uganda; later he attended the Canada Topflight Academy (a basketball academy in Ottawa), and then played in the AAU in Oklahoma. He was recovering from a shoulder injury when the accident happened.
Stephane will spend time in a specialized spinal cord facility before being discharged to come home to Canada. Meanwhile, his medical bills are mounting, and his insurance is capped at $500,000. His relatives have started a GoFundMe page to help offset the costs associated with his care, and with the equipment he will need once he returns home to Canada.
Stephane’s father, Andre, is a much-valued member of the Sportstats team. “Andre Okenge has been part of the Sportstats team every single weekend for 19 years and he is loved by the entire Sportstats team,” Marc Roy and Isabelle Fradette of Sportstats are quoted as saying, “as well as the race organizers he has worked with over the years.”
So far just over $116,000 has been raised (the goal is $400,000). To make a donation, click here.