Cerebral palsy doesn't stop 'independent' man
Ron Gower/TIMES NEWS Robert "Bobby" O'Gurek, 30, of Summit Hill, sits in his wheelchair at the computers in his home. O'Gurek is afflicted with cerebral palsy. Despite the medical condition, he graduated not only from high school, but from college, and now is starting his own Internet Web design business. He also puts together PowerPoint presentations.
Robert "Bobby" O'Gurek insists, "I am very independent."
That may be hard to comprehend by looking at him, but the more you're in his presence the more you see he's right.
Bobby, 30, of Summit Hill, was born with cerebral palsy. He is confined to a wheelchair, has his hands tucked into his lap with a safety belt, and utilizes a stylus attached to a head band with a portable computer to communicate.
Despite his setback, O'Gurek is an achiever. He graduated not only from high school, but also from Lehigh Carbon Community College where he earned an associate degree in Computer Specialist: Web Development. At the college, he was given "The Most Persistent Student Award."
His newest endeavor is starting his own Web design business. He already has several customers, including a well-established law firm.
"It's very hard to get a job," Bobby said, explaining that he has filled out many applications and has been to several interviews before deciding to try his hand at a business.
He operates his Web design business from his home.
Bobby is the son of Robert and Patricia O'Gurek. He's the oldest of four children, and one of three still living at home.
His father places a lot of faith in the striving entrepreneur, stating, "I know he can do it. Whatever he had put his mind to, he always did get done. This is something he enjoys doing."
Recently Bobby worked for a local computer service, where he said he gained experience that gave him confidence to operate his own business.
He said he started his own business "because I thought it was better for me."
As soon as word got out that he was going into the Web design business, he immediately landed customers.
He has designed sites for the Summit Hill Fire Department, Summit Hill borough, and several other municipalities.
"I design everything (on the site) from start to finish," he said.
Every site is different, but it generally takes three weeks to a month to put the site together.
"I did this at the other company I worked for," he said.
Bobby also puts together slide shows and PowerPoint presentations. In addition, he maintains the sites he creates.
Asked if his parents assist him, his mother responded, "We know nothing about it," referring to Web site design.
O'Gurek got interested in Web site design in high school, where he created one for the Panther Valley High School football team.
He joined the Diligence Fire Company in Summit Hill and became a trustee. Although he can't respond to emergency calls, he does participate in most activities including parades in which he rides the route in his wheelchair. Sensors in the head rest guide his direction of travel.
He lists going to the fire house located about four blocks from his home as his main hobby.
"I hang out with my friends over there. They are like brothers to me," he said.
Fire department officials say his contributions as a social member are very valuable.
"What he does on the computer side is a blessing," commented Summit Hill Fire Chief Shawn Hoben.
He and fellow firefighter Dave Ogozalek designed the fire department's Web site, which became operable on Sept. 26, 2006.
Ogozalek said he and O'Gurek spent about 120 man-hours designing the site.
O'Gurek said sometimes designing a new site requires research.
"If I need anything new for a Web site, I do the research."
The headstick he wears not only operates his portable computer, it also is vital for a desk computer he has at his home.
He has had the headstick since grade school.
When he entered school, he communicated by body language, communication boards with eye pointing, and would use his foot to tap out the alphabet to spell his message.
In first grade, he received his first communication device, a Light Talker.
In middle school, the Light Talker was upgraded to to a Liberator with Word Strategy.
During middle school O'Gurek played in the band and in high school was elected King of the Prom in his senior year.
He said he currently utilizes an ECO 2 with Unity to access the computer and complete all his design work.
To relax, he said he watches some television, with his favorite show being "The Office Party" with The Doctor on Penn's Peak Radio.
He's an avid Notre Dame sports fan and traveled with friends to see the Notre Dame versus Navy game at The Meadowlands earlier this year.
He said he likes top hits on the music scene and rates Jimmy Buffett as his favorite singer. In August, he went on a bus trip to New Jersey and attended a Jimmy Buffett concert.
O'Gurek enjoys politics and on election days he sits at the polls helping selected candidates. He is a member of the Democratic party.
His parents agree with him about being independent.
"He does everything by himself," said Patricia. "When he sets his mind to something, he always gets it done. He's a very reliable person."
"Thank God for the computer age," his father said. "If he didn't have the computer, what would he do all day?"
Bobby said he's happy to be living in a small town where people know him by name, are friendly to him, and spread the word about his new business venture.
"I am lucky to be living in Summit Hill," he said.
His parents have just one concern about his business aspirations.
If he becomes too successful, and makes too much money, it will affect the government financial assistance he receives because he's disabled.
Still, his father said, "This business is a chance he wants to take so we'll work it out."
(Note: Bobby O'Gurek's e-mail address is: email@example.com)