Judy Siegle :: Article


Siegle makes impact on world through women’s ministry, advocacy for people with disabilities.

By: Amy Dalrymple, INFORUM


The Fargo Forum: www.inforum.com
December 25 2010

Some may look at Judy Siegle and think her wheelchair is holding her back.

But Siegle, who was paralyzed at age 18 by a drunken driver, doesn’t view her chair that way. Instead, the two-time Paralympian uses her story to inspire others.

Now 50, Siegle is an author who has spread her motivational message around the world.

She also is director of women’s ministries at Fargo’s Hope Lutheran Church and is an advocate for people with disabilities.

“I want to encourage people to live life to the fullest. They can look at somebody in a wheelchair and think that life must be really limited and terrible,” Siegle said. “Yet I’m living fully and loving life, and I just feel incredibly blessed.”

Siegle, a Pelican Rapids, Minn., native, was headed for a career as a college basketball player when a drunken driver sped through a stop sign and struck her car.

Shortly after becoming disabled, Siegle said she realized she should be grateful for what she had rather than focus on what she didn’t have.

“My faith and family support gave me courage to move forward at a time of huge loss,” she said.

Siegle competed in the Paralympics in 1996 and 2000. Her racing career ended in 2000 after she tore a tendon. But Siegle still holds four national records in track events for quadriplegic women.

She worked at MeritCare (now Sanford) in Fargo for 20 years, first as a social worker and later as a community ambassador until that position was cut.

At that same time, Hope Lutheran Church, where Siegle had worshipped for 20 years, was advertising for a director of women’s ministries.

She has now held that job for two years, overseeing 13 ministries. Siegle said she enjoys being able to encourage women to grow in their faith.

“It’s a great fit,” Siegle said. “I am completely in my element here.”

Siegle also volunteers for a ministry called Wheels for the World, which provides free wheelchairs to children and adults worldwide.

She recently was part of a group that delivered 300 wheelchairs to Egypt and Jordan. The group also brought 10 sports chairs to Jordan, where Siegle met with 15 Paralympic athletes and shared her story.

Wheels for the World has collected more than 950 wheelchairs through drives in the Fargo-Moorhead area, Siegle said.

For the past 10 years, Siegle has led a support group at Hope Lutheran for people affected by disabilities.

Erv Heim of Fargo, who has post-polio syndrome, regularly attends the twice-monthly support group to get an “uplift.”

“I feel much better when I leave from there,” Heim said.

Siegle has also helped lead a communitywide event called “Rest and Rejuv Day” for mothers of children with disabilities. More than 100 mothers participated in the spa day last fall. The Rev. Chuck Olmstead at Hope Lutheran said Siegle is more “abled” than most people he knows. “She might be done racing in the Paralympics, but she’s still racing,” Olmstead said. “She’s racing in terms of the impact she’s trying to make with her life.”



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Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590

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