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Standing Up To MS

Message 21 of 21

Standing Up to MS - Eleanor Pendergraft, 80, Johnson City, Tennessee


Eight years ago, Eleanor Pendergraft pondered her fate. She had been disabled for 25 years with multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. A walker, wheelchair or motorized scooter was her only means of getting around. Her neurologist said she would never get any better.


Undaunted, Eleanor decided to join a nearby fitness club and started working out in a gym six days a week. What was there to lose? As she gradually gained core strength, her goals expanded. While using her walker on the indoor track she saw others flying on their feet and wanted to do that too. Slowly but surely, she went from supporting her legs on a walker to using two canes, then one, and finally taking steps on her own. Everyone celebrated her first triumphant lap jogging around the track.


What happened next takes this story from incredible to being nearly miraculous. A friend who ran in the Tennessee Senior Olympics and the National Senior Games, seeing her progress, suggested Eleanor try competing-if nothing else, for the fitness, fun and fellowship it affords all who participate in them. Eleanor thought she was crazy at first. After all, she had never done anything in athletics, and had been too busy raising six children and finishing college to be very active before MS struck her down.


Why not try it? Eleanor rode with her friends to the state games in Franklin, where she proceeded to not only compete, but earn some medals and qualify for the 2011 National Senior Games presented by Humana held in Houston. She made the trip and was excited to finish third in one of her races. The former invalid was now a National Senior Games bronze medalist.


To date, she has collected more than 300 trophies and medals from all of the running events she has entered in Senior Games and with a track club she joined. Many of them hang on the wall next to the motor scooter in her apartment to remind her just how far she has come. So far, she has only taken minimal medications since becoming active. There have been bumps in the road with small setbacks and the need for double knee replacements, but she hasn’t stayed down for long. Recently, an auto accident put her back on a walker, but she is working with her doctor, orthopedist and coaches at the fitness club to get in shape to qualify to go to Birmingham for The Games in 2017.


Would you bet against her? We wouldn’t either! Read on and take in our conversation with Eleanor Pendergraft to learn more about her amazing journey to now lead a busy life filled with running, working a part-time job and devoting volunteer time to visit and help others to pay forward the kindness she received when she was ill.


Read the rest of this amazing story:


Still think the Senior Games aren't for you? Perhaps Harriet Bloemker, 78, can change your mind:


"The Games provides a goal for staying active and a reason for learning new things.  In 2000 I bought a javelin and three years ago I started to learn how to throw a discus."


Harriet has been a regular participant in Nebraska and has competed in the National Games as well. She was the flag holder during the Parade of Athletes in the 2003 National Senior Games in Baton Rouge, LA., as well as a State Representative for the 2007 National Senior Games in Louisville, KY. 


The Games is a great socialization event that offers opportunity to meet new people and provides fun, friendly competition. However, the Senior Games is more than just super-trained and conditioned athletes. The Games provide opportunity to every person, no matter what their athletic ability. Over the years there have been so many great competitions, personal bests, individual achievements, and friendships made.  The benefits of exercise, play, and socialization are well known. 


Taken from the Nebraska Senior Games site 


"The key to success is to keep growing in all areas of life - mental, emotional, spiritual, as well as physical." Julius Erving
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