Deeper Foundations for 'Amazing Emeka'
Tulsa Youth Services counselor and professional speaker receives home through Habitat for Humanity
Locally known as “Tulsa’s Treasure,” but nationally nicknamed “Amazing Emeka” after his appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” Emeka Nnaka’s story reaches an audience far greater than he ever imagined.
After a series of unfortunate events*, like his apartment fire, Nnaka’s resilience and persistence inspired many to reach out and help. One such helper was Tulsa Habitat for Humanity. Shortly after Nnaka’s time on “Ellen,” THH contacted Nnaka to see if he still needed housing, to which his eager response was “Yeah, of course!” Since that moment, Nnaka was rushed into a whirlwind of calls, meetings and classes with Habitat to qualify for the new home.
“It wasn’t real, but then a couple weeks go by, I meet with another person and she brings me a picture of the lot with an address,” Nnaka laughs. “I was like ‘whoa, whoa, whoa, wait. It’s a go?’ The next meeting I was picking out color schemes.”
Despite the abnormality of Humanity reaching out to someone in need of a home, instead of vice versa, Nnaka had to go through the same process as everybody else.
“He had to attend all of the same financial literacy classes and homeowner education classes that every other homeowner has to attend,” explains Cameron Walker, CEO for THH. “He did it diligently and completed it. He was a great student.”
Fast forward to June 26, the largest crowd THH has ever seen at a wall raising event gather in the street in front of what was once only an empty lot. Now, the lot holds the foundation for Nnaka’s new home, all funded by ONEOK and ONE Gas. Volunteers in green shirts wield hammers and drills, laboring through the humid summer day to prepare the structure, one which will be custom made for Nnaka’s needs. Smart appliances and motion sensors will equip the home to make his life a little easier. Humanity even measured the size and turn radius of Nnaka’s wheelchair to ensure he will have plenty of space to get around comfortably in every room.
"He brings joy into the room and our family and clients services department have loved working with him,” Walker says. “We are really hoping this will give him a lot more freedom that he hasn’t had since his injury.”
Nnaka, a Tulsa Youth Services counselor and professional speaker, says he believes letting go of the life he knew before his injury is what allowed him to be where he is now. He is very grateful for his “entire world,” which he considers a perfect blend of work, pleasure and volunteering in the community.
“I wouldn’t go back and change it because I would not be making the difference I’m making if I were still playing football,” Nnaka says.
“A lot of times you see somebody like Emeka on T.V. and you meet them in person and they’re different,” Walker relates. “But Emeka has had a smile on his face every time. He brings joy into the room and our family and clients services department have loved working with him.”
*Nnaka’s past trials are explained in an interview with TulsaPeople’s Tulsa Talks Podcast, episode “2.5: The Champ.” Find it here or on Spotify under Tulsa Talks: A TulsaPeople Podcast.