In the wake of her husband’s death, Ashley (Danielson) Toms encourages others to commit to a healthy lifestyle
By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN Losing her husband just weeks before their first anniversary was the most heartbreaking experience for Ashley (Danielson) Toms.
But instead of letting her sadness overcome her, Ashley is using her faith and her husband’s undying inspiration to help others live a “life of vitality.”
Ashley, a 2003 Dassel-Cokato graduate, met her husband, Steve, in 2010, at Life Time Fitness in Lakeville, where she trained for figure competitions. Ashley described this as a feminized version of body-building, involving strict training.
Steve was the head the of personal training department and invited her to join him in his boxing class. He even bought her pink boxing gloves.
“That was his strategy, I guess, and it worked,” Ashley said, adding that the two hit it off from there.
Steve then became her personal trainer, helping her train for upcoming competitions. She began competing in 2008, and has since competed on both state and national levels.
The couple married Nov. 18, 2011, and took their shared passion of physical fitness and living a healthy lifestyle to their church.
Last fall, they began Christian Fitness Warriors at River Valley Church in Apple Valley, with the goal of teaching people to “live the life that God had designed for all of us, one of abundance,” Ashley said. She noted their ministry was based on Romans 12:1-2.
The couple was also in the process of submitting a book proposal with the same name. This is something Ashley will continue to work on, based on her husband’s quote: “People who live in a state of vulnerability, need to change to stability so they can really live when they change to a state of vitality.”
Ashley explained it like this: “When we live in a vulnerable state we’re susceptible to physical and spiritual harm. For example, we’re born sinners, we neglect our temple, make poor decisions, turning away from God.
Living in the stability phase we’re not likely to fail. In this phase we’re coasting and doing only what is safe, comfortable, what we know because it works, not really stepping out in faith.
Then, we have vitality, which is the state of being strong, active, having energy. We were created to live life in super abundance so the world would want what we have. They will wonder what our source is; Jesus Christ.”
That was how Steve lived until he died suddenly in his sleep Oct. 30. He was 35.
As traumatizing as it was for Ashley, she has chosen to “make this circumstance a steppingstone and help others,” she said.
Though her heart is breaking, Ashley said her faith is keeping her strong and it’s important for her to be a witness to people and glorify God in all aspects of life.
“It’s just a major part of how (Steve) lived, and how I continue to live,” Ashley said.
Giving up is not an option for her, she said, and referenced a Bible verse that gives her strength and hope.
“As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more” (Psalm 71:14 NIV).
“God is good, all the time,” Ashley said. “He is the one constant in our lives and His love never changes, regardless of the circumstances or situations we face.”
Living a life of vitality is the basis behind Commitment Day, a national 5k organized by Life Time Fitness, which encourages participants to commit to living a healthy lifestyle.
The first-ever Commitment Day will take place Jan. 1, 2013, in more than 30 cities across the nation.
Because of Steve’s commitment to living a healthy lifestyle, he encouraged others to do the same by joining with him on Commitment Day, “a revolution to resolutions.”
Commitment Day is being considered a movement, by thousands of men and women who are committing to living healthy 365 days of the year starting the first of the year.
Ashley added that it doesn’t have to be a fitness-related goal and that Commitment Day is also about supporting others in whatever their personal goals may be.
The 5k run/walk/jog will take place outdoors beginning at the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis, with registration starting at 8 a.m., and the 5k starting at 10 a.m. The cost for non-Life Time members is $39, and $34 for members. Kids 17 and under are free with a paid adult. All Commitment Day 5k participants will receive a Limited Edition Commitment Day T-shirt and a 2013 Commemorative Commitment Journal.
To pay tribute to Steve, who worked for Life Time since he was 19, the trainers at the fitness center in Lakeville are asking participants to register under Steven’s code. A reward will go to the trainer who receives the most registrants under his or her name.
To register, visit www.commitmentday.com and enter the code LAK0294.
With the giving season upon us, Ashley was recently surprised with a gift of her own.
For Ashley, the morning of Dec. 5 started just like any other day at Red Oak Elementary School in Shakopee, where she teaches physical education that was until she was handed the phone by someone she suspected was there from the local YMCA.
On the other end was Dave Ryan of the Dave Ryan Show on 101.3 KDWB FM.
Soon, her fourth-grade classroom filed into her office along with fellow staff. Her mom, Jody, and sister, Melia, were also among the group.
Ryan told her she had been nominated by her students for the radio station’s Christmas Wish giveaway because of the impression she has had on them.
By writing the nomination letter, the students hoped to help get the word out on Commitment Day, which they knew was important to her. They also wanted to pamper her a little during this holiday season.
Ryan told her about some of the things she will be getting to help “ease the burden a little bit” including a $1,000 Visa gift card, $200 Scheels gift card, a $200 gift card to the Running Room, a salon visit, and more.
KDWB also gave 50 KDWB backpacks filled with supplies for the students in her class.
“I was totally touched by their kindness and compassion,” Ashley commented. “It was absolutely amazing.”