Another amazing opportunity to share my story. Thank you Phil Riddle and Tarleton Magazine! Bleed Purple!
Some names really fit. One is that of 2009 Tarleton graduate Sunny Brous Erasmus.
With a cheery, outgoing personality, a calendar that includes a full-time job, a new husband, volunteer mentoring and community service, it’s hard to realize she is battling a devastating disease.
Sunny, 30, faces the challenges of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, but that hasn’t quelled her zest for helping others.
Sunny attended Tarleton as an upward bound student. The program is federally funded, with the goal of reaching first-generation college students from low-income backgrounds with educational opportunities.
“During high school, I would be part of an intensive six-week summer program at Tarleton,” she said. “We took classes, not for credit, more for preparation for classes we were taking in the fall. We competed with other Upward Bound programs in what was called Academic Bowl. We got to experience things that, had we not been in the program, we’d not have gotten to do.”
After four years of summer activities with Upward Bound, Sunny headed to Tarleton as a student in 2005, where she worked part time for the program. After graduating with a degree in interdisciplinary business, she took a job with Upward Bound while earning her graduate degree at Texas State University.
“While I was in college, it was important for me to stay involved,” she said, “so I worked for Upward Bound through undergrad and grad school. That opened the doors to Weatherford College. I worked there three-and-a-half years as assistant director of housing.”
At Weatherford, Sunny volunteered with Junior Achievement, a youth development program that bridges the gap between what students learn in school and how it is applied in the workforce. After two years as a volunteer, a full-time job opened up.
Now, as Director of Development and Events for Junior Achievement of the Chisolm Trail, she’s a newlywed, a first-time homeowner and active in the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.
Even with her hectic schedule, she has time for her alma mater. She and husband, Kenneth Erasmus, are regulars at alumni events, especially homecoming.
“I bleed purple,” she said. “Tarleton is the reason I am where I am. I still have my sticker on my car.”
As a student, Sunny was part of PANKUS – People Against Not Knowing University Spirit -supporting athletic, fine arts and academic programs campus-wide. She was part of the recreational sports crew and one of “Lonn’s Posse,” supporting Tarleton basketball and Coach Lonn Reisman.
Things, however, are bound to change for Sunny.
“Right now I’m doing and going as my body allows,” she said cheerfully. “One day it’s not going to let me. I just kind of blow and go while I can.”
One of the ways she copes with ALS is by composing regular blog entries at SunnyStrongblog.wordpress.com. There she writes of her challenges, even giving her walking stick, Phil, a starring role in one regular entry. She reports having more than 3,000 following her online journey, with the majority coming from what she calls her “Tarleton family.”
She was diagnosed with ALS in 2015. With a typical life expectancy of two to five years, she remains characteristically upbeat, while realistic about her future.
“I’m fighting the odds,” she said, “but it is taking over my life. I’m trying to balance being a newlywed, having fun, being 30 and dealing with this terminal disease.”
Still Sunny, in name and attitude.