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Posted Jan. 03, 2003

Sheboygan native sobers up, finds God, makes a difference

“Drinking is such a selfish life. You get wrapped up in your own little world and don’t give a care about anybody else.”

By Mary Ann Holley
Sheboygan Press staff

For a guy who spent the first part of his adult life sitting on a barstool in Sheboygan, Allen Ruppel has a lot to say.

“The man at age 41 who lives life the same way as he did at 21 wastes his life,” Ruppel said.

No eastern philosophy here.

Eight and a half years ago you would have found Ruppel sitting on his rump, sucking down the suds, telling pie-in-the-sky stories and talking about how great life would be.

Now, Ruppel lets his actions speak loudest, and he has no intention of wasting his life.

The 1976 graduate of Sheboygan North High School and communications executive at Northwestern Mutual Insurance Company in Milwaukee gives of his time and money to teach inner-city children the spiritual principles of karate interspersed with the ideals of the Bahai faith.

Faith and self-confidence — the basic ingredients of Ruppel’s Unity in Motion project — helped him reach his own positive change while helping at-risk youth to find the positive aspects of their own life.

“Drinking is such a selfish life. You get wrapped up in your own little world and don’t give a care about anybody else,” said Ruppel. “My father passed away this year, and when I returned to Sheboygan to tell some old friends from the bar, there they were, sitting in almost the same spot they’d been in eight years ago. It dawned on me the hopelessness of it all — the hopelessness of being an alcoholic.”

Ruppel hopes he can be an inspiration to others, planting a seed of an idea — that if he can do it, they can do it — that they can make something of their lives.

“I didn’t try to do it alone, I used friends and by finding God,” Ruppel said. “I don’t want to be preachy here, but by finding God and using friends to pull myself together, it all came together.”

Despite being featured for his good deeds on a Milwaukee news channel and approached by Oprah Winfrey’s Angel Network, Ruppel says he wants to no publicity.

“I turned my life around by finding God and learning that it’s actually actions that make a difference,” said Ruppel, who holds a black belt in karate. “I thought, here, I have this skill, so I turned it into a tool that would help inner-city kids to get there — to help them achieve self-love and self-esteem.”

Alcoholism, Ruppel said, causes you to become self-centered.

When you’re an alcoholic, you need to look outside of yourself — to find things to take the place of alcohol, he said.

“Martial arts is a great tool to help you feel good about yourself,” Ruppel said. “I tell the kids, you don’t have to fight, you don’t have to join a gang to feel good about yourself.”

People who use drugs or drink do it to feel better, Ruppel said, but it doesn’t work that way.

“In the Unity in Motion program, we talk about how you don’t have to be part of the gangs and the drugs and alcohol,” Ruppel said. “Only through God can you feel good about yourself. It’s not there unless you believe in God.”

Reach Mary Ann Holley at and 453-3169.

©Copyright 2003, The Sheboygan Press (WI, USA)

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