Roy Hall, co-founder of the Driven Foundation, shared with officers, dispatchers and staff of the Bellefontaine Police Department during the department’s awards banquet Thursday evening about his inspiring friend and former OSU football teammate, who has risen above challenges placed on him by quadriplegia and who has found his call to service.
Tyson Gentry suffered the serious spinal cord injury in a devastating accident that occurred in 2006 during an intrasquad scrimmage while playing for OSU. He caught a pass over the middle of the field and, upon being tackled, awkwardly hitting the ground, Hall recounted.
Gentry was instantly paralyzed from the neck down, and his life was changed forever.
However, Hall said when he and his teammates went to visit Gentry at the hospital after the accident, Gentry showed them a letter that was particularly meaningful. It read:
“Keep going. Never give up” and was signed with Gentry’s name.
The teammates would learn that one year before the accident, Gentry reached out to a motivational speaker who had visited the football team, a woman who had been paralyzed. Her story resonated with Gentry and he wanted to find out how he could help her cause.
She asked him to write those simple words on a piece of paper, and to sign his name, as a gift of encouragement to give to spinal cord patients. Now his own words were hoping to give hope to the injured OSU football player.
Gentry has gone on to get married and start a family of his own, Hall said. At the same time, his friend has attended to a special calling to help other families whose loved ones have suffered spinal cord injuries. He has launched a non-profit organization, New Perspective Foundation, which offers financial assistance for those traversing this difficulty.
“Tyson has used those challenges to make a difference, every single day,” the guest speaker said.
“Everyone in this room also has a calling. A calling comes with a cost. Sometimes it’s your reputation, your peace, your sanity or your health. You are forgoing the convenience of comfort at times.
“Each of you make a difference every single day. We appreciate your integrity, pride, service and fairness.”
Following Hall’s remarks, Bellefontaine Police Department Chief Brandon Standley, along with Lt. Chris Marlow and Lt. Scott Marlow presented each of the department awards to BPD staff and two community members.
Sgt. Michael Morgan received two awards this year — the 2022 Officer of the Year Award and the Volunteer Service Award. In nominations for the Officer of the Year, his peers noted his excellence in serving in the new leadership role after being promoted to sergeant earlier this year. “He’s a proactive sergeant” and “he always offers to help whenever needed,” they noted.
“He hunts OVIs, which makes our community safer,” another co-worker said. “He’s a tremendous asset to the BPD.”
Chief Standley also noted Sgt. Morgan was receiving the volunteer award for his efforts to help lead the Citizens Police Academy and the youth academy, along with stepping up to assist with many of the department’s outreach events.
The 2022 Dispatcher of the Year Award was presented to Nikki Chambers, with her peers noting her strong work ethic and their trust in her to always relay important information to them while working the road.
“The first time I met her, she was a welcoming soul. I can always go to her about anything,” another co-worker said.
The 2022 American Legion Award was presented to Andrew Purk in recognition of his outstanding public service. Each year, the department recommends three officers for the award, and the American Legion has the chance to interview those three individuals.
Longtime BPD administrative assistant Danielle Meek was awarded the 2022 Medal of Merit. She began her time at the department in 1991 as a part-time employee, and has also served as a dispatcher. More recently, she has helped the department to secure $3 million in grants through her grant writing skills, Chief Standley noted.
“She is dependable, always willing to help and has a can-do attitude,” the police chief said.
Finally, the Civilian Medals of Merit were presented to Kenya Sayles and Joan Haushalter. Sayles was recognized for his efforts to assist an officer who was having trouble with a combative subject, along with several individuals in a suspicious vehicle complaint in the Wal-Mart of Bellefontaine parking lot.
While the single officer was waiting for back-up to arrive, “Kenya saw what was going on and stopped to help the officer. With his help, the officer was able to safely place this combative male in handcuffs and under arrest,” Chief Standley said.
Haushalter was honored for her role and dedication as the president of the Bellefontaine Civil Service Commission, “providing exceptional, self-less service and managing the board with excellence,” the police chief said.