Dr. Casey O’Donnell

Casey O’Donnell next to the Stay-Focused flag on the boat, 2018

Stay-Focused has always been proud to boast about its team of volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure each program is equally impactful. From our mentors to our founder himself, it is rare to find so many who are willing to run the New York City Marathon on behalf of the organization as a charity partner. I am honored to write about my dive buddy, Casey O’Donnell, our Chief Medical Doctor, who will be running the 26.2 miles this year on that notoriously cold and windy course.

At the end of 2003, when founder Roger Muller was planning to launch the first program, he connected with Dr. JenFu Cheng. JenFu was working at Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Jersey and is an accomplished Divemaster with an impressive background in working with children with disabilities. As Roger worked to take the organization from vision to reality, he knew the parents and guardians of participants would be more comfortable letting their teens take the trip to Cayman if a medical doctor was part of the team. In 2004, JenFu introduced us to his colleague, Casey, knowing he would be a terrific addition to the Stay-Focused team.

Ambassadors of the Environment program in the mangroves

As a physiatrist, O’Donnell’s focus is to assist persons with disabling conditions achieve their highest quality of life possible. “Being a former collegiate competitive swimmer, certified swimming instructor, and a SCUBA diver, I felt this was the perfect opportunity to combine my skills in the water with my medical training to help enhance the lives of teens with disabilities,” he states, reflecting on why he was drawn to the organization. While working as a resident-in-training, Casey joined us in the early days and, fortunately for us, with a significant amount of medical training still to go, he committed to being involved with Stay-Focused for the long haul.

As Casey describes it, “I think the most impactful thing I witness on each program is the excitement participants have when participating in a sport without use of their prosthetics or ambulatory assistive devices. It’s also notable to see how the program builds increased self-confidence among participants and inspires them to set higher goals.”

Kayaking with participant, Blake V.

A primary objective of the program is to foster our participants’ sense of independence and confidence. Part of the process involves learning to advocate for themselves, seek care when they need it, and being prepared to hop in the water and dive each day. I genuinely believe that would not occur without the support of medical professionals like Casey who donate their time to participate in our programs. Stay-Focused doctors are available 24/7 to review and discuss medical histories, provide treatment, check in with participants, and participate in all our activities. With his infectious enthusiasm, Casey helps put participants at ease during a program that often represents their first trip out of the country without a parent or guardian. And as a valued member of our team, Casey is always willing to crack a joke and be goofy with the rest of us.

Jill Moore and Casey O’Donnell after a dive

“Recreation is important for everyone, especially persons with disabilities, who may have fewer opportunities accessible to them. Recreational activities improve physical and mental health and are important in building confidence among those with disabilities. Being self-confident enables disabled teens to become more independent, successful, and happier in life.” Given his dedication to ensuring ongoing recreational opportunities for members of the disability community, Casey will be running his fourth marathon on November 7th, as a member of Stay-Focused’s Charity Partner team in this year’s 50th anniversary of the New York City Marathon. With his running mantra being “I am Superman, I can do anything,” we know Casey will be heading to race day feeling confident and ready to go. When we return to Cayman for Stay-Focused’s 19th year of programmatic activity, we will celebrate with a stop at O’Donnell’s favorite Caymanian restaurant, Sunshine Grill, which Casey is convinced has the best fish tacos in Cayman. I am proud I will be cheering on my dive buddy and friend as he embarks on his 26.2 run and look forward to sharing more years of diving with him, wrong-lyrics karaoke, and laughs.

We welcome your support and thank you for donating to Casey’s fund-raising campaign. The 2021 TCS New York City Marathon is our only fundraiser this year and all funds raised will help underwrite our programs in Grand Cayman in the summer of 2022. To donate to Casey’s efforts, please visit our partner page at: