Surviving was not enough for Brenda Gilmore who was paralyzed in an automobile accident as a young woman. The professional photographer not only survived, she transformed her life -- becoming one of the best wheelchair tennis players in the country and a recognized children's instructor in tennis. In this Making a Difference profile, we learn about a Washington, DC-area woman who provides life lessons for young people.
Brenda Gilmore is an unusual tennis instructor. She is also one of the top ten wheelchair tennis players in the United States. She says exercise is difficult for people in wheelchairs. Muscles can deteriorate.
Gilmore coaches young people like Steve, who was born with paralysis. He is now 18 and going to college. He has trained with Gilmore for three 3 years, saying, "she is making me better."
But Gilmore offers these kids much more than just exercise. She says the fundamentals of tennis teach a lot about life lessons -- how to react to life's adversities, how to handle strong contenders and most of all, how to always give the best that you can.
"What I explain to our young people is that you need to learn how to be a team player, but you also need to take responsibility for yourself as a person in making decisions," says Gilmore.
She learned to thrive under adversity. At 27, she was a competitive athlete and a successful professional in film and photography. One night, driving home, Gilmore was involved in a nearly fatal car accident. Injuries to her spinal cord left her paralyzed from the waist down. Her recovery was long and painful.
Brenda resumed professional photography and, determined to continue playing sports, she took up wheelchair tennis. She became one of the best players in the country, collecting numerous trophies, awards and recognitions.
Brenda was the first African American woman to play on the wheelchair tennis circuit and maintain a national ranking in the top 10 for five years.
Within a few years, she was working full-time in tennis and volunteering as a children's instructor. Fifteen years ago Brenda co-founded the Prince George's Tennis and Education Foundation in the Washington, DC suburbs. Here she has been able to reach thousands of children and is now the director.
Brenda loves working with kids and showing them how to overcome adversity.
"If I am not giving up, you don't give up. Give all that you can even if you do lose, it is not the end of the world. And everybody loses some time -- how do you handle it? That transitions right over into everyday life," says Gilmore.
And so Brenda Gilmore continues teaching tennis, spreading her message of hard work, perseverance and positive attitude with as many children as possible.