After suffering from a spinal cord injury, a former All-American track star turned trailblazing doctor found a loving home in the disability community where he actively uplifts and empowers students.
Dr. Feranmi Okanlami, director of disability services and adaptive sports at the University of Michigan, received a hefty surprise for his inspiring efforts. On behalf of the the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, Good Morning America presented Okanlami with a well-earned $1 million, ABC News reported.
“Disability is not inability.”
“Dr. O” has made it his mission to build the adaptive sports and fitness program at the University of Michigan.
Watch @robinroberts surprise him with 1 MILLION DOLLARS! https://t.co/GcQdf2xqXO pic.twitter.com/gPfV9iWoCs
— Good Morning America (@GMA) October 20, 2022
“This is not a me thing, this is an us thing,” Okanlami responded, according to the outlet.
Back in 2013, the Stanford graduate, who hails from Nigeria and has an Indiana upbringing, endured a life-changing accident at a pool party.
“His cervical injury was high enough that most people who have [experience the same injury] are not expected to ever be able to walk or stand,” Okanlami’s mother, Bunmi explained, per ABC News.
Through physical therapy, he turned his pain into triumph and pursued his path to becoming a physician. Okanlami has since devoted himself to “disabusing disability” and advocating for equity and inclusion for people with disabilities. He was instrumental in building the University of Michigan’s disability program to where it is today.
Joined by family, friends, and colleagues, Okanlami continued to express his gratitude.
“The fact that they were able to orchestrate this somehow amidst all of the other things they’ve been doing—through COVID, through family deaths, through injury, through sickness—so the emotion is about every single person here and those that aren’t here, those at Michigan, those at other institutions and in other [countries], those on other continents with and without disabilities that have supported us to get to where we are,” he said.
“It is beyond words.”
The public’s response to Okanlami’s reward has been tremendous.
A Real Hero, Mentor, Role Model. Thank you “Dr. O”. #Inspiration #thursdaymorning
— Dan (@CrosshairDan) October 20, 2022
Congrats, Dr. O! 〽️
— Michigan Marching & Athletic Bands (@umichband) October 20, 2022