Pelican graduate speaks to local Fellowship of Christian Athletes

Members of the Pelican Rapids High School chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, with guest speaker Judy Siegle, far right.
Adult volunteer with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes John Eidsness, right, introducing Judy Siegle at local Fellowship of Christian Athletes Christmas party Dec. 7,
Pelican Rapids High School graduate Judy Siegle, well known as an inspirational speaker and writer, with her book “Living Without Limits.”

By Louis Hoglund

Young Pelican Rapids  student-athletes were inspired by the story of one their own–as former Viking athlete Judy Siegle returned to her hometown with a message of faith and perseverance.

Members of the Pelican Rapids High School chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, with guest speaker Judy Siegle, far right.

The Pelican Rapids High School graduate, who found her life completely altered after a drunk driver crashed into her at age 18, was in town December 5.  The occasion was the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes Christmas Party, held at the Pelican school.

Despite being confined to a wheelchair,  Judy never gave up. She found a way to walk across the stage to receive her college diploma. She went on to earn her master’s degree in social work, laying the foundation for a highly decorated 20 year health care career.  Today, she is director of women’s ministry at Hope Lutheran Church in Fargo.

“You are a one of a kind, and God has a plan for your life,” said Siegle to the Pelican youth.

Over the course of the past two years, the local FCA has involved at least 30 youth in the Pelican school district.

Despite her handicaps, Judy went on to become one of the world’s elite wheelchair racers, including participation in the 1996 and 2000 Paralympics and to holding four national records in track events for quadriplegic women.

Today, she continues to be actively involved in athletics, including as a member of the Hurricanes sled hockey team in the Fargo-Moorhead area–which is aiming at participating in the USA Disabled Hockey Festival in April in San Jose, California.

“It’s not about being the best,” said Siegle at the Pelican event Dec. 7, “it’s about doing your best.”

As basketball coach at Concordia College, John Eidsness recalls Judy working out in her wheel chair when she was a young college student in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

“She was an inspiration for all of us,” said Eidsness, now retired and living in the Pelican lakes area.  It was Eidsness, an adult volunteer with the Pelican FCA, who invited Judy Siegle to speak at the event.

Siegle reflected back on her experiences in Pelican Rapids. “In a smaller town, you can be involved in a lot of different things,” said Siegle, who was not only an athlete at Pelican High, but also involved in her church and in other extra-curricular activities.

The near-fatal car accident occurred as she was launching into her college years at Concordia. Her goal was to play womens basketball for the Concordia Cobbers. Instead, she “is in a hospital bed, barely able to feed myself…Reality set in.”

In addition to breaking her neck, she also sustained a mild brain injury. Use of her right hand was limited, but she overcame that setback by becoming a “lefty.”

Though her recovery tested her faith, with the help of friends, family and others, she overcame.

A counselor once told her “Imagine that God is so close that you can pound on his chest in anger.” That was one of the statements that offered her strength. “I realized I am not on this journey alone…God is going with me,” said Siegle.

Siegle authored the book “Living Without Limits: Ten Keys to Unlocking the Champion In You, “which she presented to each of the Pelican FCA youth after her presentation. She is also co-author of the book, “Don’t Miss Your Boat: Living Your Life with Purpose in the Real World.”

Judy Siegle

ATHELETIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS

• A member of the U.S. team in the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta and the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, Australia.

• Winner of two gold medals in the Mexico City PanAm Games, 1999.

• National record holder in the 400, 800, 1500 and 5000-meter events for quadriplegic women.

• Named 2000 Female Athlete of the Year by USA Wheelchair Track and Field.

EDUCATION & CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

Judy earned a bachelor’s degree in speech and communications from Concordia College in Moorhead. She went on to earn her master’s degree in social work. She has traveled around the United States motivating and equipping leaders from all walks of life including companies, executives, students, individuals affected by disability and families to live with excellence, endurance and enthusiasm. She serves as Director of Women’s Ministry at Hope Lutheran Church, Fargo.

AWARDS & RECOGNITIONS

• Service to Mankind Award, Sertoma, Great Plains Region, 2006

• Alumni Achievement Award, Concordia College, 2005

• Kiwanis “Sports Person of the Year”, 2005

• Healthcare Professions of the Year, 2002

• Exchange Program of the Year, West Fargo, 2002-03

• YWCA Woman of the Year in Community, 2002

• 2000 Female Athlete of the Year, by Wheelchair Track and Field USA

• Minnesota State High School Leagues’ Hall of Fame, 1999

• Heroes: Growing up Female and Strong – KARE-11 TV, Minneapolis, 1993

• Concordia Centennial Celebration, Centennial Medallion, 1991

• Rose and Jay Phillips Award for Career Achievements, 1991

• North Dakota’s Outstanding Disabled Citizen, 1990

• Fargo’s Outstanding Employed Disabled Citizen, 1989 Award.

• 2005 Kiwanis “Sports Person of the Year”.

SOUGHT-AFTER SPEAKER:

In 2002, she was awarded Fargo’s YWCA Woman of the Year in Community and Healthcare. She has appeared on the Hour of Power from the Crystal Cathedral, and spoken for the Women in Sports Leadership Conference, National Girls and Women in Sports Day, Minnesota Business Professionals of America, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Judy is the recipient of Concordia College’s prestigious Alumni Achievement Award, 2005.