In 2002, Emmanuel Ofusu Yeboah rode a bicycle 380 miles across his home country of Ghana on one leg. The trip took him 10 days.
Yeboah's ride was to bring awareness for people with disabilities, who, in his country, are thought of as less than worthy. The inspirational Yeboah visited Carmel Valley Middle School recently to share his story of perseverance and courage.
He was due to stay in San Diego this month, collecting bicycles to be used to make wheelchairs for people in Ghana. The students heard Yeboah's story before his visit, and upon his arrival, families had donated 62 bikes, with 12 more expected to come in.
Yeboah is aiming to collect at least 500 bicycles to ship back to his country.
"I feel very proud to do something for my country and to make awareness," Yeboah said. "Your bicycles are going to change someone's life."
Yeboah was born without a tibia in a country where the parents of babies born with physical disabilities are told to kill their babies by poisoning or leave them in the forest to die. Yeboah's mom refused.
Yeboah's mother would carry him three miles to school on her back until he became too big to carry. From age 12 on, Yeboah hopped on one leg to get to his school, where his fellow students refused to play with him.
To get in on the game, Yeboah saved his money from shining shoes to buy his own soccer ball to bring to school — if he had the ball, the other children had to play with him.
In Ghana, people with disabilities are forced to beg in the streets, often having to crawl or hop in order to get around. Yeboah wasn't satisfied with this low quality of life and set out to change the way people viewed those with disabilities.
What he needed was a bike. He had heard about the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) in San Diego and wrote it a letter asking for a bike to do his cross-country ride. The foundation obliged, in addition to sending a $1,000 grant for his trek.
Yeboah's bike ride brought hope to his country and resulted in the distribution of 800 makeshift wheelchairs. After his ride, CAF invited him to California to compete in its Triathlon Challenge. While in San Diego, he was given a new prosthetic leg and only six weeks later raced in the triathlon.
In 2005, Yeboah won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at ESPN's annual awards show alongside his friend Jim MacLaren, for whom CAF was founded. MacLaren was a standout football and lacrosse player before he was hit by a bus while he rode his motorcycle on a New York City street.
His left leg was amputated, but it didn't stop
MacLaren from going on to race in triathlons and marathons. Then, in 1993, while racing in a triathlon, he was hit by a van and left a paraplegic. Through a tough rehabilitation process, he regained movement.
Students watched a video of Yeboah and MacLaren receiving their award from Oprah Winfrey, where a room full of athletes gave them a standing ovation that lasted for minutes.