by John Hamer
Muffy Davis, who was introduced by Jerilyn Brusseau, grew up in Sun Valley and began skiing at age 3. She started ski racing at 7 and vowed to make the Olympics. At 16, she was close to winning a spot on the U.S. national team.
But one early morning on a training run, her life changed forever. At 50 mph, she lost control, went off the course and hit two trees. Her father, a radiologist, read her X-rays at the local hospital. She had a severe thoracic spine injury and underwent emergency surgery. But the next morning, she woke up and couldn’t move her toes. She was paralyzed from the waist down.
Davis recalled: “Would I ever ski again? Would I ever have another boyfriend? Who would want a girl in a wheelchair? I wanted to die.” But soon she realized that her life would be “just different,” not less.
David asked for a show of hands: “Who has never had any hardships, setbacks or challenges?” Virtually no hands went up.
Davis has trademarked the word “SurTHRIVE,” which combines the Webster’s Dictionary definitions of Survive and Thrive. She’s a living example.
“To flourish, prosper and grow through hardships or trauma. To become empowered and stronger from adversity. We all have had that opportunity to SurTHRIVE,” Davis said.
“I learned that I could still race and I could still ski,” she said. She took “monoski” lessons in Winter Park, Colorado. “At least I was closer to the ground, so falling wasn’t so bad,” she joked. After attending Stanford, she moved back home and “became a ski bum,” she said. But nine years to the day after her accident, she was invited to join the U.S. Paralympic team and won a Bronze medal in Nagano, Japan. She also won more than 25 World Cup victories in adaptive alpine skiing.
Davis believes that a positive attitude is everything. “There were some days that I couldn’t choose that positive attitude,” she said. “I was pissed off. It wasn’t fair!” She noted that “grieving days” are OK and can help. “Yes, the goal is to be positive, but if you buy into those negative feelings they don’t go away.”
At the 2002 Paralympics in Salt Lake City, she won 3 Silver medals in skiing. “It felt good, but I wanted the Gold.” She retired from ski racing and thought her Paralympic days were over.
Davis got married, had a healthy baby girl in 2008, and started riding a “handcycling” bicycle. Soon she was on the U.S. Paralympic cycling team – and at the London Paralympics she won 3 Gold medals. She likes to quote Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up.”
“We all have the potential to keep our dreams if we keep pushing forward,” Davis said. She praised Rotary, saying: “You are all giving back and showing the world what’s possible.” She got a sustained standing ovation.
Earlier in the meeting, President Tom welcomed everyone. Skip Rowland led the National Anthem, with Ken Grant on the piano. Paul Ishii gave the invocation, reading the haunting poem “October” by Robert Frost.
Cindy Runger introduced Charley Dickey to welcome those at Charley’s Table, all prospective Rotarians. Danner Graves read announcements, including an Oct. 25 Sounders game and a Nov. 6 Fellowship meeting with waffles.
President Tom asked all members of Board of Directors to stand, because they had just passed a new budget. They got a big round of applause.
Diankha Linear and Heather Fitzpatrick reported on the club’s Team 155 Membership Campaign launched last week. At the meeting, members submitted nominations of 440 prospective members! Prior to the campaign’s launch, 25 new members had been proposed since July and the Classification Committee has approved their applications. “Please keep up the good work,” Diankha said. In the first drawing of a prize, Stan Gent’s name was drawn from all proposers of submitted applications - he won two tickets to the Seattle Symphony.
Joel Paget introduced new member Andy Chin, the Director General of Taiwan; Jan Levy introduced new member Krista Dalton with PWC. See profiles below.