Kerry Gruson, 75 years young, is alive and thriving against all odds. She was a journalist interviewing a Vietnam War veteran when the most unexpected and horrific happened. The veteran had a flashback and thought Ms. Gruson was a North Vietnam soldier (the enemy). He strangled and left her unconscious; she was found and rushed to the hospital. She does not blame the veteran because he did not know what he was doing. She only feels compassion toward him. Due to the trauma she suffered, she was diagnosed with Traumatic Parkinson’s. Unfortunately, Kerry’s condition is a slow deterioration. Still, she sees obstacles as opportunities, so this only fuels her with more determination to motivate and inspire others. You have seen Kerry and Team Thumbs Up if you have raced any Integrity Multisport (IMS) races.
Kerry identifies as a philanthropist, activist, optimist, and an endurance athlete. She believes that with the trust and the help of others, anyone can do anything, including unimaginable feats, even with severe disabilities. She says, “When you ask for something, you give to others”; therefore, her motto is “How may I help you?” Through Kerry, people learn motivation and inspiration to attempt the unimaginable. Through trusting, giving, and receiving, those around her open their hearts and learn the same. This is “Kerry’s Legacy!” And this is how “Team Thumbs Up (TTU)” and “Thumbs Up International (TUI)” were born, through assistance from Erinne Guthrie and Full Circle Coaching, which supports TTU and TUI athletes.
Kerry Gruson is the epitome of grace and vision. Ms. Gruson is a busy lady in and out of triathlon and marathon. She is deeply involved as cofounder, co-chair, and president of Thumbs Up International and a Miami County Day School teacher. She will be presenting at George Washington University to Dr. Wills Olsen’s psychology class on the topic of “Extreme Decisions” regarding racing and education.
Kerry’s first race was in South Beach, Miami, Florida, in 2014 with guide Christina Ramirez with TTU. Each assisted athlete with TTU has a crew of 5-6 assistive athletes and additional shadow assistants. Kerry continues and thrives in all distances of races, short and long. At one of Kerry’s longer races, the ocean waves knocked over her boat. As her swim guide dove under to right the boat, their tether wrapped around her neck, nearly strangling her. Hence, she had to surface and then dive again, which was successful in flipping the boat back over. She immediately asked Kerry, “Are you okay?” Kerry said, “Of course,” as calm as could be, taking the event in stride.
She continues to participate in high endurance races to spread her messages. She holds three Guinness Book of World Records and even completed three full Ironman (140.6 miles) races in one week with guide Caryn Lubetsky. In our interview, Kerry stated: “In my dreams, I am not disabled, or being disabled is not a barrier. I dream I can float. I dream of sailing because that’s where I dance with the wind and the waves. I can move like a boat on the water, and I dream of how much I can help people.”
Be sure to look for her and take a moment to speak with her for an extra boost of strength and inspiration at Miami Man and other Integrity Multisport races and give her a “Thumbs Up!”
If Kerry and Thumbs Up International inspire you, please contact them directly. Here’s a video about her & Thumbs Up International: https://youtu.be/Wy9KlBhZ2rU?si=q5rmDJcDlAHoh1Kw
Shannon L. Small
10-23-2023, All rights reserved.