Paralyzed after dock dive in Madison, Hockey Day MN holds special honor

For Jake Anderson, life changed in just one moment in the dark waters of Lake Mendota on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

Now back home in Minnesota, he's striving to find a "new normal." Anderson grew up playing hockey for Chanhassen, became the captain of his varsity team, wearing No. 24. He graduated two years ago and is now a junior at UW-Madison.

Last September, he dove off the dock outside his frat house, and five feet later, he couldn't move.

"I'm excited to just keep getting healthier, and gaining my strength back, and eventually making it back to school," he said.

Paralyzed from the neck down, help for Anderson first came from the hospital. Surgery helped regain most of his head movement.

"I mean, after hitting the bottom had a feeling of helplessness, and just did what I could to call for help," he said.

Help then came from at Courage Kenny, where rehabilitation holds the promise to regain more of what he lost.

"The therapists and doctors and nurses there are absolutely phenomenal and they have me doing a lot of really cool stuff," he said.

Now, as Hockey Day Minnesota dawns, its centerpiece rink at St. Paul's Holman Field, Anderson will have his own part at three other games across the Twin Cities as guest of honor at an afternoon match-up between Chanhassen and rival Chaska. Both teams will wear these Jandystrong jerseys for warm-ups, the name of the fundraising effort to help pay for his recovery. Jake will then attend the Gopher-Badger match-up at Mariucci Arena, then the Wild Game at the Xcel Energy Center where he was already a guest of honor last week meeting players and giving the ceremonial Let's Play Hockey chant.

His mom Lisa Anderson says the effort extends beyond her son.

"When they donate to this research, they're making a lot of progress, and someday, they might make the progress that someone like Jake with a high spinal cord injury could walk again," she said.

Like so many other Minnesota families, hockey is deeply entwined in the Anderson's lives – it's a game that gave Anderson a focus growing up, the mental toughness for a now very physical test, and the ability to stay strong for the medical breakthroughs that seem so close.

"They're already doing some amazing things in research and I want to be ready for when the moment comes, and hopefully get me back on my feet here soon," he said.

How you can help Jake's recovery

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