Twenty-seven years ago on my way to a Rotary speech in Altoona, a speeding car swerved around the bend on a rain-slicked road and smashed head-on into a car in which I was a front-seat passenger.
The crash broke my neck and six ribs. The neurosurgeon who put me back together said I was less than a millimeter away from being a paraplegic. If I had not been wearing my seat belt, I would have been killed.
He also said if I had not been in shape through my daily running and weight-lifting regimen, I might not have survived the multiple, lengthy and delicate surgeries required.
But within a year, I was back running and working out, and now in my 70s, I'm still feeling great, running and working out every day.
So it's probably no surprise that I'm thrilled to participate in a wonderful new opportunity that is being created to promote our health and well-being right here in our region.
The DiSepio Institute for Rural Health and Wellness will be formally dedicated next month at St. Francis University as part of the university's Health Sciences Program, thanks to the generosity of Joseph and Marguerite DiSepio, with whom I have the privilege of serving on the board of trustees.
The multi-million dollar institute, designed by the architectural firm of Celli-Flynn Brennan, and being built by Leonard S. Fiore Inc., is dedicated to improving medical technology and wellness opportunities, not only on campus, but also throughout the region and across America.
It includes a world-class fitness center for training, teaching and research, as well as human performance, cardiovascular-metabolic and kinesiology/biomechanical labs.
A faculty-student practice in health and behavioral sciences, along with a conference center and spiritual wellness center also are included. In short, it will be a premier facility of its kind in America.
The challenge now is to capitalize on this wonderful endeavor by carrying its message to promote a healthy lifestyle throughout the communities of our region.
So, the university in cooperation with private funding is creating "The Bud Shuster Run For Your Life Program," to which I have happily agreed to lend my name and effort.
The purpose will be to take the program into our communities, our schools, service clubs, senior centers, health facilities and other organizations to promote wellness through gatherings and events including running, jogging, walking and other fitness challenges, coupled with health screenings such as blood pressure, asthma, body fat, posture, etc.
But a fitness program is only half the wellness story.
Dr. Kenneth Cooper, considered the father of aerobics, writes that no amount of exercising can make up for bad nutrition or obesity.
We're delighted that the Hollidaysburg Area YMCA, under the leadership of Tom Kopriva, has agreed to team up with us for the inaugural Community Wellness Fair on April 25 at the Hollidaysburg Y.
Professionals from the university's DiSepio Institute for Rural Health and Wellness will be on hand to provide health screenings and sessions, including healthy eating, sports injury prevention and physical activity recommendations. A healthy Kids Day will include sports activities led by the university's football, basketball and soccer teams.
I'm thrilled to provide a friendly challenge to young and old alike: Join me April 25, in running or walking and participating in this exciting Community Wellness Fair.
There will be prizes for everyone. But the best prize will be a long and healthy life.
Bud Shuster retired in 2001 as U.S. representative for the 9th District.