Motivational Marathoner to Share Story of Recovery, Redemption

Published 09.17.2014

Nursing & Health Sciences

A marathon runner, who turned unimaginable debilitation into enduring determination, will bring her inspiring story to a Pennsylvania College of Technology audience on Sept. 22.

Monday’s presentation by Janet Oberholtzer, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 7 p.m. in the Klump Academic Center Auditorium on the college’s main campus in Williamsport.

Oberholtzer experienced a number of life adventures far beyond the Mennonite culture of her family’s Berks County dairy farm – she was a seamstress, community organizer and business owner – but nothing would prepare her for May 20, 2004, the day her world changed.

Janet OberholtzerWhile on a cross-country trip with her husband and three sons, their motor home was involved in a collision with five tractor-trailers. Oberholtzer awoke from a medically induced coma two weeks later with a shattered pelvis and a disfigured left leg, which she nearly lost.

Silencing the dissenting voices, transcending physical and emotional pain, she has lived to walk again. And to run, participating in a York marathon on the eighth anniversary of her injuries (as well as several races since).

Now a real-estate agent in Florida, Oberholtzer uses her candid story of overcoming obstacles, as well as learning how to live well with pain and limitations, as a catalyst to inspire people across the country.

In addition to sharing her story on campus, she has written an award-winning book. “Because I Can: Doing What I Can, With What I Have, Where I Am.”

Her journey to Penn College began with that memoir, which was purchased by fitness and lifetime sports instructor Emily B. Miller at a book-signing in conjunction with the April 2013 St. Luke’s Half-Marathon in Allentown. Miller read it and passed it along to Judy Quinti, assistant professor of fitness and lifetime sports.

The two brainstormed about bringing Oberholtzer to campus to talk about her progression from accident to recovery to running her next marathon – an odyssey that touches, at every step, on career fields represented by the college’s School of Health Sciences.

Quinti and Jeanne M. Kerschner, clinical director of Penn College’s Occupational Therapy Assistant Program, began a yearlong effort to fund Oberholtzer’s appearance, aided by “enthusiasm and support” from Sara H. Ousby and Allison A. Bressler in the Student Activities Office.

“Janet is truly an inspirational woman, who exemplifies how one can take a tragic event and turn it into a positive experience,” Kerschner said. “The School of Health Sciences has been working extremely hard on providing valuable interdisciplinary events to our students, and this is another means for showing each discipline’s role in medical management, rehabilitation and recovery.”

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