Unstoppable Describes Amy Muzopappa’s Indomitable Spirit


by Jane Stahl

When Amy Muzopappa turned 50 recently, she recalled the most-quoted line from the film Shawshank Redemption suggesting that we all have a choice to “get busy living, or get busy dying” and vowed that she was choosing active living.

“Don’t get me wrong,” she explains. “I’ve lived a lot of life before the kids,” she quips. She has traveled a lot, including several trips to Alaska, lived a few years in the Dominican Republic on medical missions as an EMT, and enjoyed exploring the country on her Harley Davidson.

Her resolution included a change in diet through intermittent fasting and starting martial arts classes at Ellixson’s Tae Quon Do Academy where both her children study. And, impressively, while she’s been taking classes for only a year, she won first place in forms--looking fierce—in the fifth annual Championship Martial Arts Tournament in Bucks County.

Her decision to start training was not an easy one. Amy suffers from an autoimmune condition known as psoriatic arthritis—similar to rheumatoid arthritis--a long-term inflammatory arthritis that causes pain, swelling, or stiffness in one or more joints along with extreme exhaustion that does not go away with adequate rest. Periods of active disease or flares alternate with periods of remission.

“I was always active,” Amy offers. “I was misdiagnosed for years with Lyme’s disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Crones Disease, and even Lupus. But fortunately, I found the right rheumatologist and the weekly injections I give myself to suppress my immune system have made the disease manageable.”

Continuing, she adds, “I don’t like to dwell on the disability part of my condition—I didn’t even feel comfortable talking about disability until this year. But I’ve been reliving my childhood watching my children over the last six years at the joy and progress they were making. I had become convinced that I couldn’t participate. The chronic issues had me convinced me that I shouldn’t even try,” she shares.

“And yet, Donnie [Ellixson] adapted techniques for my program so that I decided to give it a try. Now, even though the practice is the art of fist and feet, I need to avoid a lot of impact on my feet. When the class does jumping jacks, for example, I participate from the waist up; I don’t jump.

“As a survivor of abuse myself and as a paramedic responding to people who have been abused, I have a natural awareness in the self-defense part of the program.  My program focuses on the Weapons and Forms aspects.”

Amy shares that she followed the journey of a mother with rheumatoid arthritis taking classes who became her hero. “I saw her participating at Ellixson’s; she became my role model, and I knew that Mr. Ellixson trains all kinds of people who need adaptations. Anybody who has the right mentality can succeed.”

The components of that mentality include courtesy, integrity, self-control, perseverance, and indomitable spirit. “Plus, he believes in ‘paying it forward.’ Students must perform a number of hours to earn advancement.”

Amy has no trouble herself in the volunteer arena in her personal efforts to make the community better. When she came to Boyertown as a “transplant,” she found Boyertown to be a quaint, cute community with a lot of potential but missing a community Christmas tree. And so, she inaugurated an effort to “just do it,” encouraging groups to help with the project, creating a Facebook Group page, and the lighting of the Unity Tree--in the middle of Boyertown’s main street by its railroad tracks—has taken place for five years with attendance at the ceremony growing each year. “There was no budget for ornaments; we found some older ornaments from a previous tree in the basement of Zuber Realty; we painted them and re-wired them,” she recalls. “We did what needed to be done.”

At the start of the pandemic, when people could not participate in community life, she began Muzo Media Productions and created videos and Facebook Live events featuring businesses and non-profits as a way to maintain interest in the “goings on” in the community and to keep people connected to one another. People know that if Amy thinks it’s a good idea, she’ll get it done.

Most recently, she coordinated the “Before I Die” community mural, an international project that she and friend Judy Wetzel discovered during a vacation in Alaska to further the involvement of the community. Inspired by the mission toward community-building and unity that the project espoused, she was determined to see it happen in Boyertown.

Left to right: Amy Muzopappa and Judy Wetzel invite community responses to the international mural wall project "Before I Die."

And as executive director for the Foundation for Boyertown Education, she takes her “indomitable spirit” to finding funding to support innovative programs for the 6700 students of the Boyertown Area School District in addition to her freelancing projects and volunteer efforts.

“Don’t tell me what I can’t do” is what often fuels her energy and undoubtedly contributed to her recent first place award in an area that she thought was closed to her.

“Unstoppable” describes Amy Muzopappa. Just don’t tell her what she can’t do.

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