August 12, 2004

King of Ghana Visits Ossur North America and the Challenged Athletes Foundation

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Ossur donates 50 prosthetics to Ghana

King Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, Eythor Bender, president of Ossur NA, and Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, CAF ambassador to Ghana, present over $20,000 worth of Flex-Foot® prosthetic feet and adapter kits towards Ghana’s health programs. Photo courtesy of the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
King Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, Eythor Bender, president of Ossur NA, and Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, CAF ambassador to Ghana, present over $20,000 worth of Flex-Foot® prosthetic feet and adapter kits towards Ghana’s health programs. Photo courtesy of the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, King of Akyem Abuakwa in Ghana's eastern region, was welcomed in early August at Ossur North America to discuss his country's plight to improve the lives of people with physical disabilities, both in Ghana and abroad.

The Okyenhene, which is His Majesty's official title, was in the US as a guest of the Free Wheelchair Mission and the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) to attend their fundraising events and meet with key health organizations.

Ossur staff members gave His Majesty, his aides, and two executives from the Free Wheelchair Foundation a tour of Ossur's North American headquarters. Following the tour, Ossur offered to donate 50 Flex-Foot® prosthetic feet and adapter kits, worth over $20,000 towards His Majesty's programs to help improve prosthetic care to amputees in Ghana.

The Power of One Man in Ghana

Also in attendance was Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, the CAF ambassador to Ghana, who has spent several years working with the Okyenhene to help Ghanaians with physical disabilities. "Without adequate education, amputees are unable to acquire good jobs to support their families. As a result, most people with disabilities become beggars," said Yeboah.

Just three years earlier, Yeboah had made multiple attempts to meet with the Okyenhene at the King's Royal Palaces, but was turned away because it was believed that people with disabilities were dirty and unworthy. Yeboah was on crutches as a result of a missing tibia. On the fourth visit, His Majesty finally agreed to receive him, marking the first time in the history of Ghana that a person with a disability was allowed into the palace of a king. 

Yeboah told His Majesty that he had requested and received a mountain bike from the CAF in America and that he wanted to ride 610 kilometers across Ghana to prove that people with disabilities can do anything. "Why do you want to do such a thing," said the Okyenhene, "and what do you want from me?" he added.

"I want to prove that just because you have a disability does not mean you can't use your God given gifts, and I need your support," answered Yeboah.

From left, Tabi King, director of development for the CAF, Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, CAF ambassador to Ghana, King Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, Eythor Bender, president of Ossur NA, Oddny Bjornsdottir, vice president of marketing and PR for Ossur NA, and Ghana's chief of staff, at Ossur NA headquarters. Photo courtesy of the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
From left, Tabi King, director of development for the CAF, Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, CAF ambassador to Ghana, King Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, Eythor Bender, president of Ossur NA, Oddny Bjornsdottir, vice president of marketing and PR for Ossur NA, and Ghana's chief of staff, at Ossur NA headquarters. Photo courtesy of the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

After Yeboahs ride, the CAF invited him to attend their primary fundraiser, the San Diego Triathlon Challenge (SDTC). During this visit, the CAF and Loma Linda University Orthopaedic & Rehabilitation Center asked Emmanuel if he would consider amputation and wearing a prosthetic leg. "At the Triathlon, I saw athletes like Rudy Garcia-Tolson and Paul Martin running and biking on a prosthesis. I accepted the offer so maybe I too could run, ride my bike with two legs, and even someday wear pants," said Yeboah.

Following an amputation at Loma Linda, and being fitted for an advanced prosthesis donated by Ossur, Yeboah went home to Ghana not only a changed man, but also a national hero. "I saw before me a man determined to reverse the injustice of the disabled. A man who leads by example and who is not driven by self, but driven to help others," said the Okyenhene. "His drive and commitment to change has brought me to America so I can appeal to these organizations to support our efforts to make better provisions for the disabled," he added.

Upon Yeboah's return to the SDTC, members of the Free Wheelchair Mission offered to donate 250 wheelchairs to Ghana to help provide mobility to those who, until now, must crawl. "The first step towards liberation is mobility. These wheelchairs will make it possible for people to rise from the ground and find jobs, get an education, and even learn to play sports," said Yeboah.

The Emmanuel Education Fund

Through the Nike Casey Martin Award, from which Yeboah was awarded $25,000 to give to CAF and CAF matched that by another $25,000, Yeboah has created the Emmanuel Education Fund. "My goal is to make sure that children with disabilities get an education, receive proper medical care, and play sports whenever they want," said Yeboah.

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