Andre Okenge got the call that every parent dreads—your son has been hurt, come quickly.
“It’s hard to describe, we’re devastated,” he says. “It’s just crying, crying, crying.”
Stephane is his 19-year-old son and on October 23, the young man was in a car accident, and the basketball player on a college scholarship in Lincoln, Nebraska is now quadripolegic.
“The doctors”, says Andre, “are currently working around the clock on his lungs”.
“The lung doesn’t look good—the doctors are working on his breathing,” says Okenge, originally from Rwanda, a father of six, who has been timing races across Canada and the US as a member of the Sportstats team for the past nineteen years. “His spirit is strong, but obviously all of us are quite shaken. We’re trying to take our cues from Steph, but the moment is really hard.”
Steph has been an exceptional athlete all his life. While in Uganda since 2014, his passion for basketball took off. He played first at KISU then at Heritage, always in the High School varsity teams despite his young age. At 14 years old, he left home to join Canada Top Flight Academy in Ottawa where he was the only grade 9 recruit in the team, and lived with a host family in order to fully focus on the program. During the summers, he traveled to Oklahoma to train with AJ Hawkins. This is what led him to be recruited to Casady school in Oklahoma City where he played for three years and, again, lived with two different host families. During this time, Steph struggled with injuries from time to time, but always worked hard to overcome them. He broke his hand playing football in November 2020 which resulted in a plate being put in his hand. Covid was not friendly to his basketball ambitions- he missed out on key playing opportunities when the AAU season of 2020 was shut down and the hand injury likewise affected his 2020-21 season. Finally back on the court in summer 2021, he joined an AAU team was playing at his first AAU tournament in Orlando, FL in July 2021 when he tore the labrum in his left shoulder. He tried to tough that one out, but this injury kept him more hesitant on the court despite it being his senior year in High school with significant pressure to be recruited on his mind. The 2021-22 school basketball season was characterised by several subsequent hospital emergency visits to reset his shoulder and major shoulder surgery was scheduled for August. Steph decided to take a half-ride scholarship offer to York University in Nebraska, an NAIA Div 1 school, for his freshman year in order to focus on his shoulder recovery. He joined York in August, the day after his shoulder surgery follow-up appointment. He has been treated like family since joining York and we are so supported by the York community.
Andre is giving, caring, loyal—the kind of guy who takes on the difficult tasks, works overtime without complaining, never calls in sick and always approaches our sport with gratitude.
“He’s laid back and positive—always encouraging—a dude you want on your team,” says Trevor Dieleman, Andre’s close friend and running partner, who’s worked with him at Sportstats for years. “As a new parent myself, Andre’s story kills me. It’s the kind of thing you wouldn’t wish on anybody, but especially somebody like him.”
Andre is stoic, but the family is reeling. Medical bills are piling up and the family needs help. Sportstats has made a donation and the team at iRun are pooling money together for our friend, but we’re reaching out to our network for help. Andre is part of our community, the best part, and it’s time we work together and chip in.
“Andre Okenge has been part of the Sportstats team every single weekend for nineteen years and he is loved by the entire Sportstats team, as well as the race organizers he has worked with over the years,” says Marc Roy and Isabelle Fradette of Sportstats, who are helping with the drive to raise money for Andre’s son, promoting a GoFundMe page set up by Stephane’s brother. “We invite everyone to make a small donation towards the $400,000 he needs. If you cannot make a donation, we ask you to simply share this with friends and family.”
Andre hasn’t led an easy life, fleeing genocide, but nothing can prepare a parent for the situation our friend and his family now find themselves in. If you’ve run a race in Canada over the past two decades, Andre has supported you. Now, it’s time to lend a hand to him.
“It’s been wonderful to hear from the community and, on behalf of Steph and our family, we appreciate the support so much,” says Andre. “We’re doing the best that we can.”
To help raise money for Andre and his son Stephane, please click on our GoFundMe page, here: https://gofund.me/0498dda2.
And thank you, sincerely, for your time.