Jim Davis’s wife, Barbara, knows a thing or two about taking on a challenge. After graduating from high school in Willimantic, she married her high school sweetheart and subsequently enlisted in the Army. Don’t tell her she can’t.
“I’m stubborn,” said Barbara. “Everyone told me I couldn’t do it. So I did it. I enlisted.”
Although just 120 pounds at the time, Barbara breezed through boot camp, building muscle and endurance in the process. Soldiers were required to complete a brutal eight-week regimen involving climbing and then rappelling down a 60-foot tower known as Victory Tower, finish a 30-mile hike, take part in daily push-ups and pull-ups, navigating obstacle courses and, of course, learn to fire weapons. Barbara graduated from boot camp weighing 145 pounds. She was pure muscle and delighted in the success of making it though perhaps the most grueling eight weeks of her life. She proceeded to her advanced training in air defense artillery.
“Initially, I was scared,” remembered Barbara. “I had never played any sports in school. I was a girlie girl. Regardless, I never doubted I could take on the military.”
Several weeks later, the newlyweds reunited, Jim, now her military dependent. The couple enjoyed the military lifestyle and the opportunity to travel. Barbara was deployed to Germany for a year. During her time of service, Barbara was awarded the Good Conduct Medal and the Army Achievement Medal.
When it came time to start a family, Barbara and Jim opted for civilian life, returning to rural Connecticut and making their home in Storrs. The couple has three children, Staci, 22; Josh, 20; and Kathleen, 17. In 1999, Barbara joined the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, as an administrative assistant. Today, she is director of information systems. In 2011, Barbara received her Bachelor of Science degree in business information systems from Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic, and she is now pursuing her Master of Science degree in computer science at Boston University in Boston, MA.
“I love my job and our mission to find a cure for people with MS,” said Barbara, who serves on society task forces and who has received numerous awards including the Team Approach to Team Approach Award. “It’s good to know that what I’m doing helps make a difference in the lives of people whose challenges may be greater than my own.”
When the National MS Society announced it would host a competitive obstacle course, MuckRuckus MS, to raise funds, Barbara was intrigued. At the dinner table one evening, she brought up the idea of the family forming a team and raising funds. Everyone loved the idea. Jim and the couple’s son, Josh, took the lead.
“My Dad and I started training, getting up at 4:45 a.m. every morning to work out with P90X,” said Josh, who plays football for the Eastern Connecticut State University Warriors. “We’ve been at it five weeks now. We’ve turned our living room and basement into something like a gym. The workouts really test your limits. But we can see physical improvement already.”
The P90X program promises to transform bodies in just 90 days – plenty of time for the Aug. 18 MS MuckRuckus. As Barbara watched her husband and son train, she decided she had better get busy too.
“I can’t stand by and have my family kick my butt,” said Barbara, with a sly smile. “We are a very competitive family. What’s good for Jim and Josh, is good for me. Now, as soon as I get home from work, I put in the DVD.”
Barbara even reached out to P90X founder and trainer Tony Horton. He responded by sending her an autographed set of workout DVDs. Barbara, who hopes to raise $1,000, is using the signed P90X package, valued at $119, to help raise funds. Every person who donates to her fundraising by July 15 will be entered in a drawing for the DVDs.
“We really want to help raise awareness and funds for MS,” said Barbara, who named her team, The Mud Cadets. “In the process, we hope to enjoy the family bonding time and the satisfaction of knowing we, as a family, helped others.”
Although Jim is slightly concerned about the test ahead, he admires his wife’s daredevil nature and quest for a challenge.
“I think MuckRuckus MS might end up killing me,” he joked. “But when it’s all said and done, we’re all going to feel fitter. What matters most are the bonds we’ll build as a family and the lives we will affect in the process.”
MuckRuckus MS Northeast takes place Saturday, Aug. 18, at Essex County’s South Mountain Reservation, located in West Orange, N.J. Organizers expect to attract more than 3,000 participants and raise $500,000. Participants will slosh, slip and slide through some of the muckiest obstacles in the Northeast. The course offers five miles of “menacing” challenges. Participants are encouraged to form teams and raise funds to help support Americans battling multiple sclerosis. Funds raised by Connecticut participants benefit the more than 6,000 Connecticut residents living with multiple sclerosis.
Registration is $75 per person through Aug. 11 and $85 per person thereafter. There is a $100 fundraising minimum per person. For more information or to register, visit www.muckruckusMS.org/northeast. To be entered in the drawing for an autographed copy of P90X and donate to Barbara Davis or her team, contact her at Barbara.email@example.com or visit www.muckruckasMS.org/northeast.