Former-Steamboat teacher returning to tell life-changing story
October 20, 2013
Steamboat Springs — For Lori Schneider, Steamboat Springs represents a completed circle. The 56-year old former Steamboat teacher — then Lori Whitehead — isn't nearly finished, however.
Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999 while teaching first grade at Soda Creek Elementary School, Schneider overcame the fear that was initially far more crippling than the actual disease and grew to be stronger than she ever had been. She climbed the Seven Summits, the tallest mountain on each continent, completing that task in 2009 on the summit of Mount Everest.
Now Schneider travels the world relating her story, and that quest is bringing her back to Steamboat this week, invited by the Colorado-Wyoming MS Society. She plans to speak from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Bud Werner Memorial Library, giving a free presentation entitled "Empowerment through Adventure: Climbing Beyond our Limits."
"I'm thrilled to be coming back to Steamboat Springs, a community I loved for 20 years when I lived there," she said. "I was surrounded there by many caring and giving teachers and coming back, to me, seems full circle and it leaves me with a really warm feeling in my heart."
Schneider woke up one day with half of her body numb and her vision failing. She was terrified that she'd never be able to do so much of what she'd dreamed, and she was even too petrified to tell anyone about it.
Medication helped ward off the symptoms, however, and soon she overcame the fear the disease brought. Rather than cower, she began knocking items off her bucket list. Once she'd climbed the Seven Summits — becoming the first person with MS to climb Everest — she turned her attention to telling her story, seeking to empower others with the same confidence that had helped her rebound from the roundhouse that was her diagnoses.
"In 2011, I brought a group of others with MS and Parkinson’s to Mount Kilimanjaro to climb that mountain in Africa," she said. "It was so empowering for them to move beyond their fear, and for me again, it was bringing the whole experience to a positive place in my own life and finding new meaning through empowering others with MS."
She's told her story across the world, throughout the United States and Europe, tailoring the message for the audience. She tells students to believe in themselves, business or community groups to challenge themselves and hospital patients to move beyond their illness and focus on their abilities.
She hasn't stopped her adventuring, either. She spent two weeks trekking in Peru to Machu Picchu in August and hopes to continue to focus on checking at least one item off her bucket list annually.
"It's just an amazing gift in my life to be able to do this," she said. "It's funny how something I thought was the worst possible thing in my life, being diagnosed with MS, but it's given me an opportunity to redefine myself and my life. It's been a positive change in my life, a positive influence and I'm very appreciative of that.
"I'm excited to come back to Steamboat and share my story, and to hear other people's stories, too."