Ethan Blumhorst ’17, M.S. ’18, was recently selected as an Honor 200 Veteran. This award was initiated through a partnership between the Illinois Bicentennial Committee and the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). Blumhorst received his award at the Illinois Bicentennial Ball in December and was honored for going above and beyond the call of duty to assist his fellow veterans and service members.
Blumhorst came to Illinois State University as an athletic training student, but changed his major after learning about therapeutic recreation at the annual KNR Kickoff event. “I looked into it more and fell in love, so I switched. It reminded me of the saying, ‘If you love your job, you will never work a day in your life,’” said Blumhorst.
CAST recently had the chance to catch up with Blumhorst and learn more about this honor and his time as a Redbird!
Tell us more about your selection as an Honor 200 veteran.
For the Illinois Bicentennial, the state and VA honored 200 veterans that continue to serve their communities, and I was fortunately selected. There are others who deserve this accolade, but someone was kind enough to nominate me. I always look around for veteran organizations, how I can help, or what I can bring to the table. I immensely enjoy working with Special Olympics (which is always welcoming volunteers), and athletes at S.O.A.R. in Bloomington (check them out). I have found that you can’t change the world, but you can change your community by getting involved.
What has been the most fulfilling part of your career?
I just finished my graduate degree and I am waiting to begin a job in behavioral health with the Department of Veterans Affairs. I would say the most fulfilling part of my journey has been the people I have met while volunteering at different organizations and locations. It is nice that a guitar program that started at the Bloomington VFW and harmonica program at the St. Louis VA are still going, thanks to some great folks that continue to volunteer and share their love of music with others. As Aldous Huxley wrote, “After the silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” I have also had a great time with Lifewaters, a scuba organization working with disabled veterans. Getting to create activities for participants with my students for the kickoff celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Special Olympics is a memory I will cherish.
What do you miss the most about ISU?
My professors in the School of Kinesiology and Recreation (KNR), as they were always ready to answer students’ questions., Professor Smith was phenomenal in teaching recreational therapy courses and Professor Mainieri was always a glorious ball of energy! She has such knowledge and let me dip my feet into conducting research. Professor Mulvaney always had great dad jokes to go along with his instructions—he should be known as the PUNisher. There were so many top-notch people on campus, including recreation program Director Dr. Brent Beggs, KNR Director Dr. Dan Elkins, and Judy Curtis with Veterans’ Affairs.
I also had great times at the Maxwell Dog Park and Frisbee Golf course with friends and my pooch, Farley. Hearty laughter and libations at Molly’s was a prevalent occurrence, along with watching football at Brewe-Ha’s while destroying some cheap but great greasy burgers. Braize sandwiches at the VFW are greatly missed! A truly unforgettable moment was watching the Cubs finally win a World Series for the first time in over a century. I was happy for all my friends that stuck it out through the years and I had to laugh at the number of people that jumped on the bandwagon.
What advice would you give current college students on maximizing their time here, and starting a career path?
I would say enjoy the ride; work hard, play hard, but make sure you have worked hard first. There are a myriad amount of clubs, organizations, and events to enjoy while you are at ISU, so take advantage and have fun. Also, ensure you take advantage of your professors because they love what they do and will do whatever they can to set you up for success. Do not be afraid to ask a question in class or make an appointment to ensure that you understand the material. Having a firm knowledge foundation in your area of study will help you establish competence in the classroom and in your career. Like I used to tell my soldiers, competence breeds confidence and things continue to build. Always try your best to not merely meet the standards, but to exceed the standards set before you. Lastly, get out and volunteer somewhere that is near and dear to your heart, or with one of the clubs or organizations on campus. As the Reverend James Brown stated, “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved.”