“Justin over came Cerebral Palsy to excel and give hope to others”
The “look of eagles” refers to that rare quality seen in the eye of a champion racehorse. It is the look of possessing deep inside oneself the spirit, tenacity, and will to surpass all expectation. This is the case with Justin O’Malley, our Eagle Rare Life candidate.
When Justin was born, he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. By two years old, he was confined to a wheelchair and largely immobile. His doctor sent him home with his mother without much hope. Having heard of a new program, she signed him up for Therapeutic Riding at what is now known as Central Kentucky Riding for Hope (CKRH).
It must have been very difficult to put him on a horse for the first time, wondering if it was safe. Justin had been in and out of the hospital so many times. He was placed into the saddle and, as the horse began to walk, his mother saw it…the smile, the joy, the look. Justin was free for the first time.
In the eighth grade, Justin learned to walk. His years in the saddle helped him with his altered gait. As he became an independent rider, his CKRH instructors began encouraging him to compete in adapted horse shows. He qualified for Nationals at age 18 and went to Kansas City to compete on the national stage.
Justin learned a lot more than riding over sixteen years. He learned to use his body, build strength, develop coordination, and to solve problems. This learning transferred to every aspect of his core being and, in the process, transformed his life.
Justin wanted to be viewed through the prism of his own merit rather than that of a “disabled child.” He found that his only limits were those that were self-imposed by his imagination. So, he continued to dare to dream big. After graduating from high school he pursued college and became the first-ever four-year triple major graduate in Centre College’s history. He went on to earn his Juris Doctor from the University Of Kentucky College Of Law.
In 2012, Justin journeyed on a humanitarian mission trip to Uganda. He wondered what he had to offer these people whose country had become so ravaged by civil war, poverty and AIDS. Upon arriving the answer became clear. He was there to carry the simple message that had marked so much of his own life; that he truly saw these people and they mattered. He told them that they should dare to dream because where there is life, there is hope.
At age 32, Justin is now a licensed practicing attorney in Kentucky. He continues to ride whenever he can. He still does things his way…figuring out how he can give back and how he can help others, always giving credit to CKRH and his team who supported and enabled him. It was hope that he found and hope that he wishes to share.
Never underestimate someone who dares to dream big, especially Justin. It is that “look of eagles” in his eyes.