Basketball Community Clubs

Buzzer-beater, eye-popping dunks & strong community on display at Slam For Steph fundraiser


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By Dan Plouffe

Ottawa’s basketball community and beyond came together last evening to fundraise and support the family of Steph Okenge, who became paralyzed from the shoulders down after a late-October car crash in Nebraska.

The Slam For Steph event featured a Canada Topflight Academy scrimmage (Red topped White with a buzzer-beater), a halftime show by the Kamengo Cultural Troupe from Uganda, a 3-point competition, and the signature slam dunk contest, followed by a reception inside the high school’s cafeteria.

The event raised funds to help Okenge’s family pay for the 19-year-old’s travel back to Canada, rehabilitation therapy, home renovations and specialized medical equipment.

It was held at Notre-Dame Catholic High School – the home base for the CTA prep program, with whom Okenge won a national title before he moved south to pursue collegiate and professional basketball opportunities.

“I’m so so so touched to see everyone here,” Steph’s mother Trisha Okenge said to the gathered crowd of several hundred. “I can’t express to you the appreciation that I have for everyone in this room. Some of you I’ve known for many, many years, others I haven’t even met yet. That in itself is so amazing.”

After a month in the intensive cart unit and several weeks on a ventilator in Nebraska, Okenge moved to the acute trauma unit at the Ottawa Hospital’s Civic campus earlier this week. Though he’s still focusing on breathing and physical regulation, Steph shared with his mother that he can’t imagine how much more difficult it would be for someone in his position if they didn’t have as many people in their life to support them like he does.

“Everyone in this room – we have a variety of people from all different walks of life – and I think that’s one of the very beautiful things about Stephane is he brought together people from a wide range of backgrounds,” Okenge noted, highlighting that in North America, many people are used to being very independent. “But in fact, we do need each other, and this is a really beautiful example of how all of these different networks have come together.”

“I’m telling you, this young man touched everybody,” echoed CTA director Tony House, who thanked everyone involved in putting on the event. “The whole community just came in and that speaks volumes about the young man that we’re here for.”

Okenge’s family is posting updates on his progress in an online journal. An online fundraiser for Okenge’s family has already raised nearly $150,000 U.S.

View the Ottawa Sports Pages’ photo gallery from the Slam For Steph event below:


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