The Drive to Help Others
After serving in two of our noblest professions—firefighting and teaching—what do you do in retirement? If you’re Jerry Dixon, you look for new challenges to take head-on.
A few years ago, the former smokejumper who parachuted in to fight forest fires and teacher of gifted students in Alaska learned about a village in Afghanistan named Kak Ear Tak Jar. The Taliban had forced residents to flee, and when they returned there was no school to educate the village’s 150 children.
Dixon decided that he would help build one. He held a fundraiser at his mother’s Salt Lake City home and raised $18,000; the K-12 school was completed in November 2004.
The school is one of many projects that Dixon is working on. He has to date established 11 endowments, which include a philosophy lectureship at his alma mater, the University of Utah. “I get a good idea, put up some money and get some really smart people to put money in as well,” he says.
In addition to creating endowments (he’s working on numbers 12 through 15 now), Dixon continues to pursue his life-long passion for sports, ranging from skiing and whitewater rafting to ultramarathons, which are races that run longer than 26 miles and frequently involve harsh terrain. In 2004, he was the first person in 85 years to go from Seward on the Pacific to the Yukon in an ultramarathon. “The same thing that drives me in extreme sports drives me in creating endowments,” he says. “I just keep living my dreams.”
You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down
After Barbara Ellicott suffered severe wounds in a 1994 pit bull attack, doctors said she would never run again—words that felt like a death sentence to the former public school speech pathologist, who once completed the Boston and New York Marathons.
But after “sitting like a bump on a log for half a decade,” her children urged her to reignite her active lifestyle. She did just that through veganism.
Attending conferences of such organizations such as the North American Vegetarian Society and American Vegan Society, Ellicott, now 65, saw her quality of health improve as she cut meat and dairy products from her diet.
Now she attends such events not just as a spectator, but as a motivational speaker.
“Going to these things saved my life,” Ellicott said. “I’m a survivor.”
Ellicott is hitting the pavement again. She just completed another marathon in October and also competes in local triathlons. But her passion to stay fit and active is matched by her for love for speech and language therapy.
Ellicott started her own private practice, Comprehensive Therapeutic Services in Madison, N.J., 10 years ago. She is even working on a book about holistic healing, drawing on her life and near-death experiences.