No Limits

Bronwyn McGary ’19

“There are no limits.” This is the motto I have lived by for most of my life. It came from my father, Dave McGary. He was an incredible man — a professional artist, sculptor of Native American Realism in bronze, and most of all a loving dad and husband. My father would tell me “there are no limits” whenever I felt I could not do something or wanted to just give up. He would say, “Can’t never did a thing.” This was his motto with everything in life, especially his sculpting.

My dad was a rule-breaker with his sculpting techniques, and he challenged the casting process, at times defying gravity. His attention to detail and realism in bronze have been his legacy in the sculpting world.

The importance of giving back was taught to him at a young age — I always carry this mindset with me, especially when things get rough. I lost my father to kidney cancer when I was a junior in high school, a time when I was preparing for the biggest and most intimidating decision in my life: choosing a college.

I knew Denison University was the college for me because of the small class sizes and beautiful campus. At the time, I knew I would not be just a number or lost in a huge auditorium where the professor never knew my name or life story. I wanted a small liberal arts education, and to be challenged intellectually. Denison gave me this opportunity.

I was nervous about the competitive application and acceptance process and the thought of leaving my home in Arizona. Moving far away from family and friends was daunting. Especially leaving my mom, who was my refuge for strength and guidance. My father’s motto, “There are no limits,” served as my motivation, and I applied.

After I was accepted to Denison, I began my time as a first-year student on a pre-health path towards physical therapy. I knew I wanted to help individuals with various life challenges, physically and emotionally. And during my first year of college, I faced physical and emotional challenges of my own.

Freshman year I was diagnosed with a chronic auto immune illness that greatly affected me physically and emotionally. When I went home for Thanksgiving holiday that fall, the doctors at Mayo Clinic told me I could not return to college to finish the semester. I thought I would have to take a year off to figure out my health challenges and potentially transfer to another school closer to my home in Arizona. Could this be the end of my college career at Denison University?

It was just the beginning.

I returned and finished strong. I began my sophomore year with a new sense of confidence and perseverance. I knew I was going to finish college and I told my doctors, “I will not be taking a year off, I want to finish what I started.” I was determined to finish college on time and graduate with my 2019 class.

I continued to pursue the path of physical therapy, with some apprehension until I had a meeting with Professor Eric Winters, after taking several of his classes within the Health, Exercise and Sport Studies (HESS) major. Dr. Winters and I built a strong bond and continued to have meaningful discussions about my future and career aspirations during my time at Denison. My path towards physical therapy was forever changed with his guidance and support.

He helped me to develop an inner confidence which I will carry through life and into my journey of recreational therapy and equine therapy for children, adults, and military veterans who live with various disabilities and special needs. For this opportunity I am so grateful.

Recreational therapy and equine therapy are both perfect career paths for me as they will allow me to help individuals physically and emotionally through adaptive sports. Instead of being in a clinical setting, I am able to help these individuals with the healing power of the outdoors and the mountains that I love so much. I know that through my health challenges the outdoors and mountains have been a healing modality on a personal level.

I am very appreciative to the HESS major because I was able to learn from the various classes within the major and apply them to my career aspirations. While it was not the typical path the majority of my senior classmates were pursuing, I have learned a great amount through various internships, and volunteering opportunities with summer recreational therapy organizations. It is extremely important to make sure that one’s mind, body and soul is treated, and not just the physical aspect.

There are no limits. One must prepare as if there are no limitations in life and love as though tomorrow will never come living their life to the fullest. This is how I want to practice my recreational therapy and therapeutic equine riding instructing. There are no limits to what these children and adults can achieve with adaptive activities.

People doubt themselves all the time due to their disabilities, but I have seen them accomplish much in their lives, just as I have set and achieved goals for myself within my time at Denison. Treating the physical and nonphysical can come in many forms of modality as long as it is beneficial to the patient and nurtures the relationship between the practitioner and patient.

One of the most important lessons from my journey at Denison, is to be kind to others. You do not know what someone is going through or has been through in their life. I know I have been through so much personally and I will be whispering to myself as I walk across the stage at graduation, “There are no limits,” thinking of my father, and knowing I did it!

I will graduate as a Health Exercise Sport Studies Fellow, and a Dean’s List student. I have remained strong through college despite my health challenges and as I am handed my diploma on May 18th, I will look out into the crowd and know how far I have come with the help of my amazing professors, the HESS department, Denison University and my biggest supporter of all, my mom.


Bronwyn shares more about her work:

Recreational therapy is a very individualized type of therapy that allows an individual to improve and maintain physical, cognitive, social, emotional and spiritual functioning. There are many types of recreational therapies that are utilized. These include, but are not limited to: adaptive sports, arts, animals, games, dance, music, and various community outings. Within therapeutic horseback riding, I learned how to make the connection from various HESS classes with the most effective way to treat the physical and nonphysical of a patient.

Equine therapy, alongside helping with the physical or motor skills, helps heal the nonphysical of the individual which is treated by the presence of the horse. These particular animals bring extreme joy and happiness to children as kids like to lean on and hug them. When a child is at the equine-assisted therapy ranch instead of their usual hospital setting or doctor’s office, for that moment the child forgets their disease and hardships.

May 17, 2019