Overcoming obstacles

Personal challenges motivate three recipients to pursue physical health
Sunday, November 6, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:03 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

They’ve worked hard to overcome profound personal challenges, and now they’re being singled out for their efforts.

Richard Acton, G. “Doss” Bhagvandoss and Theresea Fisher are the fall 2005 winners of fitness awards from the Mayor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Health.

Rebecca Beach, chairwoman of the council, said the awards help give the community role models for healthy living.

“This has been an action of the mayor’s committee since its inception in 1999 to recognize citizens who are role models for promoting health and fitness in the community or who have made healthy personal lifestyle changes,” Beach said.

Mayor Darwin Hindman presented the awards on Sept. 26 at the Activity and Recreation Center. “They are remarkable people,” Hindman said of the honorees. “They picked the fruits of their exercises.”


Richard Acton’s physical struggle began when he was injured in a car accident when he was 18. It left him with limited mobility in one side of his body. Acton, 41, joined the ARC when it opened in 2002 and became a regular client.

Brian Higginbotham, a fitness specialist at the center, said Acton’s commitment to exercising is “a lifestyle change for him and, hopefully, a road to better health. Ricky has a one-of-a-kind personality, and others are glad to see him at the facility.”

Acton said the award means a lot to him. “It shows I can do it. I’ve got will power,” he said. He also thanked Boone County Family Resources for help with shopping and paying bills.


Doss Bhagvandoss, 70, started going to the ARC in December 2002 after suffering a stroke earlier that year. Since then, he has made great progress, Higginbotham said. “In the beginning, three employees from the aquatic staff had to assist him into the hydrotherapy pool and attached flotation devices to his body to keep him afloat,” Higginbotham wrote in his nomination letter.

Before long, Bhagvandoss was walking an hour in the pool using a current for resistance, and now uses other equipment there. He arrives at 8 a.m. and leaves at about 12:30 p.m., and he relies on the city’s Para-transit system to get him to and from the ARC. He works the night shift 40 hours a week at an MU language lab and does his own research in his spare time.

“After you have a stroke, you have to keep on learning,” Bhagvandoss said. He added that he is trying to memorize the entire Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit, as well as several plays by Shakespeare. He listens to them on tape when he exercises or rides the Para-transit buses.

“Some people don’t take the initiative to get better,” said Hilary Roberts, a therapist who helps Bhagvandoss walk. “I feel Doss is working hard to improve his health and current condition.”

Walking on the track upstairs is his next goal, Higginbotham said.

When the mayor presented the award, Bhagvandoss said, “It is not enough to have a vision of building beautiful facilities. People need support systems to gain access to them. If I take a taxi, it costs $60 a week, and also it’s not reliable.” The city’s Para-transit service, on the other hand, is “courteous, convenient and cost-effective.”

While the support is important, Bhagvandoss said, so is will power.

“If it is to be,” he said, “it is up to me.”


Theresa Fisher lost well over 100 pounds by using a combination of diet and exercise. Fisher was nominated by Georgia Morehouse, secretary of the mayor’s physical fitness council.

“Theresa recognized that she had a weight problem and went about doing something about it,” Morehouse said. More than two years ago, Fisher started going to the gym at the ARC and began following a Weight Watchers regimen.

“One of the unexpected bonuses of this lifestyle change has been not only lowering her cholesterol and triglycerides, but her blood pressure has been under control for about six months,” Morehouse said.

Fisher is the oldest of six children and comes from a large, extended family, Morehouse said, which meant there were a lot of hand-me-downs when she was growing up. “It is no wonder that she was thrilled this past Mother’s Day when her husband bought her the first new bicycle she has ever owned,” Morehouse said.

The gift has allowed Fisher to add cycling to her exercise schedule.

“The bicycle gave me a fun new way to exercise and to enjoy the wonderful trails of our city and state,” Fisher said. “I hope Columbia can continue to make biking and walking a safe activity. The bike has given my husband and I a new activity to enjoy together.”

Morehouse said Fisher’s health-oriented behavior carries over into the workplace.

“One of the best things I think she does is she gets a buddy to walk with her during 15-minute breaks instead of indulging in that doughnut and cup of coffee,” Morehouse said. “Theresa said that she’s dropped so much weight, some of her old friends no longer recognize her.”

Fisher has also learned how to adapt healthier recipes into the meals she prepares for her family.

At first, Fisher said, exercise was challenging, but “now it is part of my daily routine.”

She said she’s learned the importance of taking one day at a time and setting small goals. “Forgive your bad days immediately,” she said. “They serve you no purpose.”

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