What began as a tragic story of heartbreak has morphed into a tale of inspiration and hope.
Jack Jablonski, the Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School student who suffered a spinal cord injury while playing in a hockey game on Dec. 30, is turning the hockey world into BEL13VERS – that miracles can happen.
Last night, more than 30 former and current NHL players, along with 800 other guests, attended the sold out BEL13VE in Miracles Gala at Xcel Energy Center to raise money for the Jack Jablonski Fund. Earlier in the day, former NHL great Jeremy Roenick hosted a skills clinic for local youth at the St. Louis Park Recreation Center to help raise money for the fund.
In a press conference before the clinic, Leslie Jablonski, Jack’s mother, talked about the amazing progress he has made while embarking on physical therapy at the Courage Center’s ABLE Program, with the support of the Christopher Reeve Foundation.
Doctors told his family that “Jabs,” as he is affectionately nicknamed, likely would not be able to use his arms after the injury. However, through hard work and determination, he has regained the use of his arms, and more.
“He’s had movement in his legs; he felt his toes tingles,” Leslie said. “This stuff is unheard of, he wasn’t supposed to move his arms. His legs? Forget it.”
The hard work and determination that Jabs has shown is only a part of the process. Since his injury, Jabs’ positivity and attitude have never waivered.
“I was expecting a sad story, but I got the opposite,” said Roenick, who visited Jablonski in January and has since become friends with the 16-year-old. “You talk about being a warrior, I saw a warrior six months ago and I can’t wait to see where this kid is going to go. He was great on the ice, but he’s even a better person.
“I’m a believer, I think this kid is going to do tremendous things.”
Roenick was one of several attendees of the BEL13VE in Miracles Gala with NHL ties, including several Wild players. Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Josh Harding, Nate Prosser, Stephane Veilleux and Chad Rau. All were in attendance to support Jabs in his road to recovery.
“Things like this, it just brings a community together, and to see him and the great spirits that he is in is just awesome,” Parise said.
Parise, who the Wild signed as a free agent on July 4, said that there is a bond within the hockey community that goes beyond the borders of the State of Hockey. Paul Martin, Elk River native and current Pittsburgh Penguin, shared the sentiment.
“To have this as an example of the way people pull together in support,” Martin said. “I can’t think of any other sport where it’s such a tight knit community where people respond to things.”
“It goes beyond hockey. It’s life.”
The event, which culminated in a dinner and ceremony where the ice usually sits at Xcel Energy Center, began with a silent auction of items to help raise money for the Jack Jablonski Fund.
The items up for bid ranged from signed memorabilia to custom woodworking, built by a young man who is familiar with Jablonski’s story.
Anthony Regole, owner of Chair-Built Custom Woodworking, lost the use of his legs in a car accident at the age of 16. Now 21, he builds furniture out of used hockey sticks and donated items for the silent auction. As a thank you to the Wild organization for hosting the event, Regole presented Wild Chief Operating Officer Matt Majka with a custom-made bench during the ceremony.
“People are always behind you when you’re in a chair,” Regole said. “All this stuff they got going around for Jack is unbelievable. And all the people that are here, this is awesome.”
In a story that hit so many in the State of Hockey and beyond this one is ongoing, but the strength and courage that Jabs has shown throughout the process, in his goal to get out of his chair and back onto this ice, is one of inspiration. The BEL13VE in Miracles Gala was a celebration of hope as much as anything else.
Roenick summed up the day best: “You’ve got to get that word out there, that you can overcome obstacles that maybe you’re not supposed to overcome.”
Jack Jablonski is doing that, and making us all BEL13VERS.