Jim Byron: Care in Motion!

Over the years, spectators at Williamsville Bullet Football events have likely witnessed numerous occasions when a student athlete has had the misfortune of a hard hit injury. Sometimes the player's condition was assessed as getting "the wind knocked out of him." At other times it was a muscle strain, a twisted ankle or something like a hyperextended knee, or even a fracture. Whenever a player on our team goes down in pain, a coach and an official or two are usually the first to respond. But there would be another significant resource that could be seen among them. Jim Byron, long-time sports therapist, has been standing nearby and ready to render a healing touch, a relieving massage through his blessed hands and therapeutic expertise.
Photo Credit: Jim Byron Family

Jim has spent nearly forty-five years springing into action and rendering aid to Williamsville athletes in distress. In fact, Jim has served student athletes through his Sherman Sports Therapy Center in over fifty central Illinois schools throughout his storied career. 

While he has officially retired and closed the center, Jim can still be seen on the sidelines for all home games of the Williamsville Bullets football program. Student athletes have always had confidence in knowing that Jim would be present, often giving a pre-game inspirational talk and then during game time, offering his contagiously positive and hopeful attitude no matter the seriousness of any injury. He has modeled a calming assurance and genuine care in motion!

What makes Jim Byron's story so compelling is that he started his life out with such a seriously debilitating condition. Born on March 21, 1931 with the hereditary defect of Spina Bifida, doctors gloomily predicted that he only had less than four years to live if he survived the surgery needed to close up his exposed spinal cord. They told his parents he would never be able to walk and that his brain function would be seriously diminished due to the lack of spinal fluid flowing into it. Jim would prove the doctors wrong! 

Battling through years of multiple surgeries, agonizingly painful rehabilitation, self-doubt and spiritual struggles, and constant bullying by classmates, Jim would miraculously survive and thrive to go on to play sports (football, baseball and basketball!) and later to graduate with credentials in sports massage and therapy. He has spent his life using his gift to impart hope, help and healing through massages, positive thinking, and spiritual encouragement. 

Jim is a man of God. He and his wife Illa have been active members of the Sherman United Methodist Church since joining in 1974. He is not bashful about his faith. It goes back to those early years of suffering when Jim says, "My reason for leaning on God so much... was a matter of survival... If we lean on God, He'll provide the care, understanding and especially the love."

On behalf of our family, I recently sent a greeting card and note to Jim on the occasion of his 90th birthday. His family requested that the community "shower" him with greeting cards. And they did! So far, he has received some 150 cards and notes!! They fill up a large notebook his daughter Mary decorated for the celebration. The family made up this memory book as a keepsake and reminder of the many who love this good man and appreciate all the ways he has blessed so many. Jim was so overwhelmed by the response that he told his beloved wife Illa, "This is the most awesome birthday I've ever had!"

Jim's compassion, encouragement and the healing power God imparts through his hands have ministered to our family over the years! The Keppler’s have lived in Sherman nearly thirty years and we have always known that the little building housing Jim's Sport's Therapy Clinic was only a short walk away from Stardust Drive. When I think of Jim Byron, I think of the phrase "Care in Motion!" I see him in my mind's eye, though short in stature, rushing out as fast as his legs would carry him, holding his therapy kit beside him, and ever "on the ready" to assist an injured athlete in distress! 

Over the years my back and shoulders needed Jim’s warm massage with special oil more than a few times to relieve the stresses of life. The twins had numerous occasions when they developed muscle cramps and injuries from their athletic pursuits with the Williamsville Lady Bullets and needed a healing massage from this skillfully experienced therapist. And Monique has always loved to tell how Jim gave everyone the best shoulder and back rubs when he was invited to speak at the school teacher’s training events! 

In every instance, after passing through the sports center's doorway, we always felt better physically, emotionally and yes, spiritually, too, from the good work of Jim Byron. Jim would always add to his therapies this prayerful affirmation as he walked you to the door, "Remember, you are special!" We were never able to truly and completely compensate him for those life-giving massages and shoulder rubs! But we will never forget how this man has served us, imparted healing to so many throughout our entire community over all these many years. If you would like to read about Jim's life or find out more about awards and scholarships in his name, check out his book: The Healing Touch: God's Gift to Jim (www.amazon.com).

What Jim Byron has is a gift. He is the first to acknowledge that it is a gift from God. We all remember the healing power of Jesus' touch. He touched the blind to give them sight (John 9), he touched and cured those who had leprosy (Matthew 8), parents brought their children to have Jesus touch them (Mark 10), and there were many more instances when Jesus' hands blessed others. Each time He touched them, Jesus imparted life!  The Gaither song summarizes the impact: "He touched me and made me whole!" Thanks be to God for His life-changing touch in Christ!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor, 
active churchman and
doting grandparent. 
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com 


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