Janet, who came to Denver in 1985 with her ex-husband, former Denver Bronco Star Quarterback, John Elway, says: “When stress leaves your life, your health is good, and you feel at peace; things couldn’t be better!”
At Stanford, Janet was a world-class swimmer, and at her Tacoma, Washington high school, she set a national record in the 400-meter individual medley.
The statuesque “All American Girl,” - who also possesses a big warm heart - carries herself with poise and grace wherever she goes. Janet Elway is a bundle of energy, and as those who know her well can verify, she has a magical presence and is a genuine, loyal friend.
Janet has continuously stayed involved with numerous charitable organizations throughout the years and is still active in the nonprofit world today. If you see Janet Elway around, personally tell her that you are glad to know she is doing well and how much you are rooting for her every step of the way.
How would you describe your life at this moment in time? What I feel most is that I’m growing so much right now. I’m finding so much serenity. I’ve learned much about myself, and how to handle the different transitions and circumstances in life. I am not afraid to ask for help or other’s wisdom. I worked very hard to be this kind of person - being healthy, being at peace. I found in order to be that way, you need to work at it.
Anything that you don’t feel you have at the time, it’s like an oyster so to speak, seeing the ugliness on the outside and the toughness of it, and then you finally get to open it, and there is this beautiful pearl, and I feel like my life gets to be the pearl right now.
What are the kids up to these days? Jessica 20, is a sophomore at Stanford, and she gave up Basketball to concentrate on her studies. She’s very interested in Psychology. Jordan 18, is a freshman at the University of Virginia. She was recruited by them to play Lacrosse, and she is playing for them right now. Jack, 16, who is a sophomore at Cherry Creek H.S. and is their backup Quarterback right now, and he just got his driver’s license, and he’s growing like crazy! And Juliana (JuJu), 14, who is a freshman at Creek and is a typical teenager - always on the phone and the computer.
Describe a typical Saturday for you and the kids? We wake up relatively late on Saturday - around 8 or 8:30 a.m. We eat a big breakfast; I like to feed them well before we go off to a sporting event. So you see these sleepy eyes come walking down the stairs smelling the bacon, and then they are off to play or watch sports. Then we do something like go to the mall and grab some food. We go to a movie, or rent a movie, and make dinner, or go to get something to eat that the kids want like Chipotle.
Your dog, Kimo, an Alaskan Malamute, is famous for making the headlines, what has been his most exciting adventure so far? One of the neighborhood kids left the door open, and once Kimo gets out, he’s just gone. He’s very docile and very sweet, but because of his size, 150 pounds, people tend to panic, and call someone. He’s doing really good at the new house though, no incidents so far. We also have our dog Daisy, the Bichon, who just had ACL surgery – now the dogs are getting sports injuries!
What three things are always in your refrigerator? Shredded cheese, tortillas and bacon. We’re a huge bacon family, it’s gotta’ be the thickest you can find.
What is your favorite place in your home? On my bed, working and doing all my phone calling, etc. Also watching the Turner Classics on TV. I love all those old movies. I have two pillows that I love. I travel with them (even though I look silly walking through an airport with them). In my bedroom is where I would usually be.
Whenever we see you, you are so upbeat, positive, and cheerful - what in your view is the key to always looking so happy? What you haven’t seen in the past is a very sad, depressed, anguished person; that’s what I have grown out of. In the past I could put up a pretty good front. There were many dark days for me. It’s nice to say, things do get better.
You won a ton of awards as a championship swimmer; do you still swim a lot? Yes. When I moved into my house, I built a large pool so I could swim and work out. I swam a lot last year, but not as much this year. I just spoke to my brother last night though, and we are swimming from Alcatraz to San Francisco next July, so I need to get in shape. I think swimming is so soothing on the mind; it’s probably like I feel when I do Yoga, a spiritual place to be.
Can you share a favorite childhood memory with us? My family owned part of a beach and some cabins in Washington without running water or electricity, so we would stay there for the summer. There were 19 grandkids on the beach. I remember the feeling of driving in the car smelling the salt in the air, and being so excited to be with my cousins all summer long until school started. All the way from taking a bath in a big tub where they heated up the water in a wood stove, brushing your teeth outside, using the out-house – all of that was just wonderful. My parents had no idea at the time the gift that they’ve given all of us.
What are you most passionate about? My kids.
What charitable causes are you involved in at this time? – How did you get involved? I’m active with “Adam’s Camp,” and I’m on the Board. Karel Horney, the mother of Adam, has been a very dear friend of mine for over 15 years. Once you meet Adam, you fall in love, and of course you want to help; so that is very near and dear to my heart.
We have established a whole new nonprofit venture called “Janet’s Camp,” in fact we just had our kick-off today. Jean Galloway came to me and presented this idea so that inner city kids could go to the YMCA Camp for two weeks. As I heard more about these kids who are usually latch-key kids, and how their parents really want them to be involved in something where they don’t have to worry about them during the day, I started thinking more and more about how I don’t have to worry about those things, and how no one has previously done anything like this with the YMCA.
We also brainstormed the idea to raise funds by throwing a party for adults in my backyard, that is like being at camp, and we turn it into a camp for the night, with tents set up, games and crafts – wear campy clothes and have a Denver Bronco and a Denver Nugget’s player there, and using different community resources in that regard. We are hoping to raise enough money to give 250 kids scholarships to the YMCA with this program. I’m fortunate to have this huge house and pool, and why not take advantage of it. Hopefully it will turn into something we have yearly. It will take place on June 24th.
Of course I’m still involved with the Kempe Children’s Foundation. We used to be very active at Kempe with the Elway Foundation. We supported both Kempe and "FACES" (The Family Advocacy, Care, Education Support) organization.
I support The Denver Victim’s Service Center. I had a good friend who was killed by attackers who wanted to take her red Jeep Cherokee. It was a gang-related murder, and at the time, part of the initiation into a certain gang was to steal a red Jeep Cherokee. I got to know how much this organization was helping my friend’s family cope with this terrible tragedy.
I also very much support Young Life. This outstanding club for kids and high schoolers meet at my house every Monday night. There are about 60 high school students at my home, and they are all so pleasant and wonderful. I’m so impressed with the entire organization and how they run it. I’m just happy to do whatever I can to help them out.
Who is your hero? Gosh, that’s a tough one. (I used to always say John - I’m still amazed at what he’s done with his life.) I hope it doesn’t sound too overdone when I say my children are my heroes because of how resilient they have been. With all that they have gone through with the divorce, and all of the publicity around it, they have stayed so open and have handled things so well.
What are the qualities you like in a man? All the qualities my boyfriend, Steve Perkins has. He amazes me! I’ve never experienced someone loving me as compassionately as he loves. It’s just wonderful. The moment I met him, I could see and feel his beautiful soul. As if I could touch it, it just exudes from within him, and it comes through his eyes in such a beautiful way. I just feel so blessed to be in his presence. I am so lucky.
What do you think is your greatest strength? My faith, that has definitely been a huge asset, and I think not wanting to give up and not being afraid to get help when needed - and to ask questions. Not wanting to stay in the place that I was at. It all took courage.
What do you think is your biggest weakness? I don’t know how to say no!
What do you see as your most significant accomplishment? I think my career, so to speak, of always being next to God and being in a public position, and being able to keep myself and my children grounded, and still be able to have a normal life and a normal existence. Just surviving the craziness of public life.
What is the best advice someone ever gave you? That it’s okay to fail.
What is your favorite quote, saying or motto? A saying from childhood, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get…”
What is the best book you have ever read? Hind Speak on High Places. I read it when I was in middle school, and it was a wonderful book about a crippled goat that had to climb this mountain. He could never get his footing right, and he kept falling behind. He had a little animal friend with him, and the goat just kept going and trying to believe in himself. The idea of the story was just to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and to keep trying. It had such a spiritual twist to it, that it was beautiful.
What’s your favorite magazine? Vanity Fair.
Is there somewhere other than Colorado you would like to live, Maybe someday? Well, I always have had a love for Seattle and the Northwest, and I actually own a marina up there, and it’s where my parents live. I dream of going there. I don’t know; it depends on where my kids end up. I do miss the water very much.
If you knew then what you know now, is there anything you would do differently? Gosh, that’s about regrets, and I try not to live with regrets, because I believe every thing happens for a reason. Regrets can just eat you up.
What does the future hold for Janet Elway, what do you still want to do or accomplish? I’m realizing how quickly my kids are leaving the nest with two of them already going to college, so just really loving and enjoying the moments that I get to have with the two who are still here. Planning as many trips as I can to see my two best friends: my older girls, and just to continue and keep growing as a person and becoming more of a spiritual and serene person. Those are the things that I’m looking forward to. I don’t really feel like I’m out there to accomplish “this and that” necessarily, just more about becoming a better person so that when I meet God, he can proud of me.
How do you want to be remembered by future generations? I want them to know that I was loving, giving, and a warm place to come home to.
Awards & Recognitions: (Among others) Inducted into the Washington State High Schools’ Hall of Fame on 11/12/05. Inducted this summer into the Pacific Northwest Hall of Fame for Swimming. In April 2005, Janet was inducted into the Tacoma Sports Hall of Fame.
I am impressed with your poisitive and upbeat point of view, thank you for sharing your interview with the rest of us. Congratulations on your admission to the various halls of fame.
In 2000, I attended the Paralympics to attend and cheer my neice's competition in the swimming events in Sydney, Australia. She participated in 5 events, finishing 5th & 7th. Since then she has dropped out of swimming, completed college with an A- average and has attempted to get into a career in nutrition, especially sports nutrition. It's amazing how close minded a lot of business entities are at even allowing a student to complete an internship, they won't make any accomodations for handicapped personnel. The reason I tell you these things is because she displays some of the same courage, fortitude, and drive that must come from your sport - swimming.
She has been interviewed for magazines like Campus Life, has met with politicians (even had a photo op with Hillary Clinton), and continues to be an inspiration for others, as you also are.
God bless you as you continue your work and thank you for sharing your positive outlook.
I have been a football fan of the Denver Broncos since I was in junior high school (1966-68) so I can not tell you how happy I was to see John come to Denver. Football is important to me because it offers something to look forward to during the sometimes gloomy winter months. I have always been proud of the way you and John represented yourselves and your family, ( particularly in the fishbowl of the Denver media)always with class and dignity. I know how difficult divorce is, it hurts your heart clear through to your soul. I think of myself as being a typical Denverite, I care for and appreciate your commitment to our community. I am so glad that you, and your family are doing well. Please know that our city is better because of your families leadership and involvement in the Kempe Children's Foundation. Most importantly Denver is a better place just because you decide to live here. Respectfully and with great admiration.
Janet, You truly are an incredible woman. You are so genuine...your heart just spills out. Thank you for being so brave & gracious. Roselyn
Janet, you have proved that no matter how tough the road you can rise above it and by sharing your personal experiences help others to achieve a wonderful life as you have done.
I have the utmost respect and admiration for you and your family. You are definitely a spiritual inspiration to me and all who have the privilege of knowing you.
A special thank you for all you do for kids and especially for the Kempe Children's Foundation and Kempe Children's Center for this many past years.