Two days after we rocked Chicago with a Jim Peterik mini-concert, we rolled into Canton, Ohio where a celebrity from the sports world hopped on our tour event. The occasion was the Hall of Fame Senior Olympics and State Games Kick Off Breakfast held under a large tent next to the venerable Pro Football Hall of Fame, and despite the early start there was plenty of energy coming from the 150+ athletes and guests. And one in particular had a very familiar face.
Quarterback great and current ESPN college football analyst Todd Blackledge joined us at the podium to share a few words about fitness and assisted State Games Coordinator Larry Werstler and NSGA’s Communications and Media Director Del Moon in presenting a Personal Best Award to athlete Leurene Hildenbrand from nearby Hartville. Moon, filling in for CEO Marc T. Riker who had to tend to a family emergency, recounted the storied life of the 81 year old from farm girl to Goodyear research scientist, farmer, cattle rancher, boat builder and eventually senior athlete. “Her friends call her Wonder Woman, and after you hear her story there’s no wonder why,” he told the audience.
Hildenbrand, who divides the year between her 25 acre Hartville home and Pinellas Park, Florida, did her research and drew upon childhood running, skating and cycling to build up to participating in 17 sports in local and state senior games in Ohio and Florida. “I love being able to do this and I want to be an example for others,” said Hildenbrand, who did not have the opportunity to participate in sports as a youth. She will compete in table tennis and cycling at the National Senior Games Presented by Humana in Cleveland. There’s much more to discover about “Wonder Woman” when read her Personal Best profile.
Blackledge resides in Canton and serves on the board of trustees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He quarterbacked Penn State to a college football national championship in 1982, won the Davey O’Brien Award and then played seven years in the NFL before pursuing a broadcasting career. He expressed his admiration for senior athletes and expanded on the greater importance of encouraging everyone to stay active. “When I was an athlete I worked
out for the purpose of performing my best on the field. Not that I don’t compete any more my focus has shifted. I work out to maintain my best health and fitness. You just have to do it.”
It was a good morning to meet so many friendly athletes and great volunteers that make Ohio’s state games a success. Our thanks to games director Larry Werstler, volunteer and emcee Betty Smith and everyone who gave NSGA such a warm welcome. Getting a free look around the Pro Football Hall of Fame was pretty cool too. If you are a football fan it’s a must see experience.