chemotherapy

Paralyzed Man Dedicates Life to Helping Others

After a life-altering car crash, Hal Hargrave started the Be Perfect Foundation to provide funds to help others receive the rehabilitation they need

In 2007, Hal Hargrave was an athletic 17-year-old high school senior in Claremont looking forward to playing baseball in college.

Then on July 26 of that year, while driving along the 15 Freeway near Barstow, he swerved to avoid a tire tread left in the road and flipped his pickup truck four times.

He suffered a severe spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down. But even after being told he had only a 3 percent chance of ever walking again, he refused to give up.

"I know with that 3 percent of hope I was given, that’s all I need," Hargrave said.

Hargrave began the slow process of trying to rehabilitate his injured body. But, when his insurance coverage for rehab ran out within a year, he turned to the Claremont Club.

He had worked out at the local gym since he was 11 years old. The club’s owner, Mike Alpert, is the father of one of Hargrave’s friends. Together, Hargrave and Alpert converted a racquetball court into a specialized gym. Soon dozens of paralyzed patients were showing up for the clinic dubbed "Project Walk."

"Last August, a year and a half after we opened, we doubled the size of it. So we’ve grown from 17 full-time clients to 60 with spinal cord injuries and other forms of paralysis," Alpert said.

Hargrave then started the Be Perfect Foundation which has raised more than $2 million to help pay for others to have their vehicles adapted to their disabilities and receive the rehab they need.

“I thought if I can be a small part of that by raising funds for people who needed those types of dollars and that type of hope in their life, then this was a no brainer for me,” Hargrave said.

David Stoecklein receives free rehab at the clinic. The Chino Hills minister became paralyzed after chemotherapy damaged his spinal cord. He said he's already seeing progress.

"I was able to develop muscle tone and get in a standing walker and move my legs and walk," Stoecklein said.

"Somebody said to me I think you’re going to walk out the door here one day. I said, well, that sounds good to me," he added.

Hargrave said helping others helps him heal.

"For me, if I can come into a facility like this and look around and just see smiles on their face, that’s more therapeutic than me getting on a table and trying to move my own two legs," Hargrave said.

Amanda Van Esch, who suffered spinal damage after surgery for scoliosis says the free program is helping her reclaim her life.

“It’s never guaranteed they will get you standing and walking, but just the hope that one day that might be you is enough to keep you moving forward,” Van Esch said.

Miracles are happening at Project Walk everyday. Van Esch is now up on her feet and Hargrave is driving again. Hargrave’s goal is to regain enough mobility to live on his own and eventually start a family.

"For me, dreams don’t start and end with one instance. It’s how you continue to live out that dream and I have no intention of stopping any time soon," Hargrave said.

Hargrave is set to graduate from the University of Laverne next year. He is pursuing a career in sports broadcasting. If you would like to learn more about his program or donate to help visit the Be Perfect Foundation here.

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