August 18th, 2012
Hyland's Heroes: Dennis Ogbe
Paralympian determined to live a full life
The following feature is a part of a weekly series, sponsored by Hyland, Block & Hyland, called "Hyland's Heroes" - a set of profiles that will spotlight Louisville area Catholic volunteers, coaches and administrators who assist athletic programs and teams, and help promote excellence in all aspects of sports. Know someone that you think should be featured as the next "Hyland's Hero”? Send your recommendation to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many ways to define the concept of hero. Whether it comes directly from a dictionary or something you see on the news or read in the paper or on the internet, we can probably all agree that a hero is someone who inspires others.
Dennis Ogbe is a hero.
As this week’s Hyland’s Hero, we profile this man whose courage and faith have allowed him to reach the pinnacle of his sport.
Ogbe was born and raised in Zaria, Nigeria in a home with no electricity, no running water and 11 siblings. At the age of three he contracted malaria. A nurse broke a syringe in his back and he was in a coma for three days. With his immune system weakened, he contracted polio while still in the hospital.
Think about that for a moment and ask yourself, “Do I know anyone that has malaria or polio?”
The polio left him paralyzed from the waist down. Countless hours of therapy and encouragement from family and friends enabled him to regain use of his lower body, but his left leg is still paralyzed. He walks with a severe limp and competes from a specialized chair.
None of these circumstances could stop this champion Paralympian. He has overcome diseases, a coma, paralysis and seemingly insurmountable odds all through his life. And now he has earned the opportunity to participate in the London 2012 Paralympian Games for the United States of America, just two and a half years after earning his citizenship.
He traveled a long, difficult path to get where he is now competing in the shotput and discus events for the U.S. Paralympian team. But the Bellarmine University graduate has no complaints.
“I believe all of this is definitely God’s doing,” said the devout Catholic Ogbe. “Everything happens for a reason and I don’t see my leg as a setback. God works in mysterious ways. He wants to show you that in every disability is some type of ability. God uses this to His own glory.”
A member of St. Agnes parish, he has received the encouragement and prayers of his faith community for his athletic ventures. As an employee at Brown-Forman, he is the Corporate HR Specialist for their North American Region, Ogbe has embraced his community as much as his community has embraced him.
He uses the St. Agnes ball fields to train. He has been invited to speak to several of the student athletes at the school and one can’t help but think how much of an inspiration he has been to all with whom he has come in contact.
“I was asked to speak to the St. Agnes football team and was honored and blessed to do so,” he said. “I use their field to train and it was nice to have the opportunity to encourage those kids.”
What inspires a man to have such a disposition? In his native Nigerian language, the word “ayo” means joy. And ayo beams strong and bright from this man’s spirit to all who see him, speak with him, encounter him.
“I think what inspires me is I always look at my creator, Jesus Christ, who made me for a reason,” Ogbe firmly stated. “I want to keep doing what I’m doing so that others see what God’s hands have done for me. He has destined me to be where I am now. I want to do good things in His name and to honor the life He has given me.
“A very good friend of mine who is a little person (dwarf) competes in the Paralympics and to see him live his life with that condition from birth is inspiring to me. He has been to five Paralympics games and he is still going. He is so humble and is a tremendous person. He inspires me to do well and if he can do that at his age, I can keep going, too.”
This gracious, grateful, humble man directs all attention to his achievements to God. In 2000, as fate or God would have it, Bellarmine University Track and Field head coach Jim Vargo saw Ogbe compete and win gold for Nigeria in the Paralympics. Vargo saw the talent. But beyond that talent, he saw the man and the potential for even greater opportunities.
Ogbe received a half-scholarship to throw the shot, discus and javelin for Bellarmine on a level playing field against able-bodied competitors, from his specialized chair. He worked four jobs to help put himself through school. His dedication, devotion and desire have led him to this day, to this opportunity to compete in the Paralympic Games in London.
“Of course, the ultimate goal is to go to London and come back with the gold medal,” he stated firmly. “But what I look forward to most is representing my country. America has done a lot for me and this is my way of saying thank you for giving me the privilege to do what I am doing.”