Badge of Courage

Ten years ago, Teresa Wright-Gustray lost some weight and wanted to keep it off and stay healthy. So Teresa looked for a gym that was close to her house so that she would have absolutely no excuses for not staying fit.

When Teresa walked in the doors at Atlantic Care Gym in Egg Harbor Township, she instantly fell in love. She had been concerned about going to a gym where everyone is lifting weights and judging others or expecting you to be a top tier athlete. “This is not a muscle head gym,” said Teresa. “Everyone is wonderful and they come from all walks of life so it’s not competitive. It’s just fun and motivating.”

Teresa was so motivated that she took classes at the gym sometimes twice a day in the morning and evening. She made friends at different times of the day too, so now she has night gym friends and day gym friends. Whatever time of day they prefer, they all root for each other to meet their goals.

Now they are all rooting for Teresa in her fight against ALS.

In the fall of 2016, Teresa started to have issues speaking. It was an odd feeling for her, but she continued to live her life as fully as ever. On April 6 of this year, Teresa was diagnosed with ALS. Even though a new life would start, Teresa refuses to stop.

That’s that kind of person that Teresa has been her entire life. She worked five part time jobs to put her children through college and took on every job with pride. Now her son Jeffrey and daughter Johnna are both grown up and taking jobs as teachers. Their mom valued education and now they are passing those values to their classrooms.

Gino (Teresa’s son-in-law), Johnna, Teresa, and Jeffrey (plus an elephant)

Now, Teresa continues her exercises as best she can and as frequently as she can. Teresa signed up for the Ocean City Board…Walk to Defeat ALS and was overwhelmed by the response by her family and friends. So far, 75 people have signed up online to be part of her team and many more have told her they will join on walk day.

Atlanticare Health System donated $500 to Teresa’s walk team so that they could support her mission. Women from her night classes and her day classes are coming to the walk with her and Teresa is excited to have these different groups of gym friends finally get together.

At one time, Teresa worked as a school bus aide on a bus for children with special needs. Now parents of those children she helped are signing up for her team.

“This picture represents the real me,” said Teresa. “ I was with people on hoitie toitie bikes and biking outfits. They kinda poked fun at me, but my strength physically and mentally got me through right with them! Actually, at the end, I blew by them! “

Perhaps the biggest shock for Teresa was that people she hasn’t seen since high school back in 1980 signed up for her walk team after hearing her story.

“It’s wonderful to see how many people remember me and care,” said Teresa. “I will continue sharing good times with all of my friends. I just want to be positive and upbeat no matter what happens with ALS. Having such an incredible support system makes it easier to maintain that positivity.”

Johnna is engaged to a man who Teresa loves as much as her own children. When Johnna saw all that Teresa was doing, Johnna moved up her wedding date to October 1 to make sure that everyone could participate in her special day.

Teresa is not doing the Walk to Defeat ALS to give back exactly. She has said that she knows that The Greater Philadelphia Chapter will be there when she needs it, but for now she’s going to continue playing golf, riding her bike and taking occasional classes at the gym. For now, she’s accepting ALS and focusing on the future for other people who will face the disease down the line. On the day she recorded her story for this post, Teresa was out delivering shirts to her teammates. Nothing was going to hold her back for the Walk to Defeat ALS.

“I still run circles around people,” said Teresa. “And together, my team is going to run circles around this disease. ALS is my badge of courage.”

Come witness Teresa’s energy and positivity at the Ocean City Board…Walk to Defeat ALS on Saturday, September 16. Register or donate at www.oceancitywalktodefeatals.org