Adaptive tennis program in Steamboat renamed in memory of devoted volunteer | SteamboatToday.com

Adaptive tennis program in Steamboat renamed in memory of devoted volunteer

Sharon Paulus worked with the Steamboat Tennis Association's adaptive program. The program has been renamed the Sharon Paulus Adaptive Tennis Program in Sharon's memory.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Sharon Paulus had the kind of smile that would light up a room and a positive attitude that her husband, John, describes as infectious, and he knew it well.

"Sharon always had a huge smile when she would walk into the room," said John Paulus. "She made me feel very comfortable being around her, and I wanted to be around her because of that comfort and that good positive feeling that I always got from her."

So it was no surprise that when Sharon started playing tennis 13 years ago, one of the first things she did was persuade her husband that he needed to start playing the game as well.

"She convinced me to play, so that we would have a sport that we would enjoy together, but I'm a bit of a hack," John said. "The main thing is that we did enjoy it together even though I was more of a liability than an asset — but she didn't care."

Her love of tennis and that attitude never faded. Not when she got sick a little more than a  year ago, and not even after she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer.

"That's what really struck people while she was sick," John said. "The whole time while she was sick she always had a very positive attitude and a beaming smile. She always wanted to be every caregiver’s favorite patient … she wanted to be the patient that all the caregivers felt good about even though she was facing a very serious illness."

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Sharon lost her battle with cancer on Oct. 26 at the age of 52. Earlier this month, the Steamboat Tennis Association honored Sharon by renaming its adaptive tennis program the Sharon Paulus Adaptive Tennis Program.

"She was just a delight and really invested in helping kids," said STA Executive Director Warren Luce. “She was just a wonderful person. The joyfulness that she brought to the adaptive program really, really added to it." 

The family also asked that her friends donate to the program instead of purchasing flowers for the family. So far, those efforts have raised $4,000 for the program, which has been offered by the STA the past three years. 

Luce said the association is looking at some different options for how that money can be used to help expand the program to include adults with mobility issues.

John has volunteered with Steamboat Springs Adaptive Recreational Sports, or STARS, since moving to Steamboat Springs. Sharon followed a similar path with the STA by getting involved with the adaptive programs there. She encouraged her sons Christian and Ethan to help with those programs along with John.

"Sharon always had an interest in giving back to the community if she could," John said. "It's wonderful. I think tennis is a great sport for all people, and it’s a great sport for people with disabilities."

Sharon met John in 1986 while she was vacationing in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She was there to enjoy the sand and sun, and John was working for a large oil refinery.

The two embarked on a close friendship and stayed in touch despite being separated by an ocean. Sharon returned to St. Croix a year after meeting John, and the two quickly realized that they were in love and started dating long distance. They were married in 1990.

"The way to fall in love is to make a friend first," John said. "Sharon and I very quickly became friends that first trip, but it wasn't until that second trip a year later that we realized that we loved each other."

In 2011, the Paulus family, which also includes Christian, who is now 20, and Ethan, who is a Steamboat Springs High School junior, moved to Steamboat. John said he and Sharon loved Steamboat and wanted to stay in the Yampa Valley after they retired.

Sharon was a member of the Parent Information Committee, and she was very active with the STA as a fundraising co-chair.

John said Sharon’s work promoting youth tennis and volunteering her time to help children with autism learn to play her favorite sport was very rewarding. She also worked for Steamboat Ski Area the past several years.

Anyone wanting to make a donation to the Sharon Paulus Adaptive Tennis Program can mail a check to the Steamboat Tennis Association at P.O. Box 770533, Steamboat Springs. CO 80477 or donate online at SteamboattennisAssociation.org.  Those making donations should note that they are being made to the Sharon Paulus Adaptive Tennis Program.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.