The Hargrave family were active members of The Claremont Club in Claremont, California. In 2008 their son Hal was involved in a car accident, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.
After visiting Hal in the hospital, Mike Alpert, the CEO of The Claremont Club, was determined to help. “I knew they were a fantastic family that had done so many wonderful things in our community,” said Alpert. “I told Hal’s parents that when he was released from the hospital that we should get him back in the club where he used to workout six days a week. I wanted to get him out of a clinical and sick care environment and back into an eccentric and healthy one. I knew we could help him.”
Since then, Alpert has taken extensive measures to accommodate Hal and many others struggling with spinal cord injuries. He converted a racquetball court into a space for Hal to rehab and stocked it full of the necessary equipment, such as an electric swim bike, customized Total Gyms, hydraulic tables, upright gait trainers and an adapted standing frame.
Alpert also ensured that a few trainers at the club were qualified to work with spinal cord injury patients. “None of our trainers had ever worked with someone who had no feeling from the neck down,” he explained. “Eventually two of my trainers and my wellness director agreed to go down to the Project Walk corporate headquarters in Carlsbad, California for four weeks to learn how to work with spinal cord injured clients.”
What started as a program to help a friend of the club transformed into the first Project Walk franchise in the world, which opened at The Claremont Club on February 1, 2013. The program now trains 65 spinal cord injury clients in a 5,100-square-foot space.
Jason Smoot is one of these clients. He suffered a spinal cord injury during a diving accident. “When I first got injured and was in the hospital, the Hargraves came to my room and talked to me and my parents to let me know that there are things out there that I could do and this was not the end, it was the beginning,” said Smoot. “Eventually, when I got out of the hospital, I got in contact with them and started going to The Claremont Club.”
The Claremont Club has been a tremendous resource for Smoot. It has helped him with his rehab, and Alpert also offered him a job at the kids club. “That has also been a great experience, having something to look forward to and be able to give back to the community a little bit,” added Smoot. “There is a different attitude when you enter the building, whether it is looking forward to going to work with the kids or just seeing my friends who have also gone through the same experiences.”
Smoot’s experience is evidence that exercise can have a remarkable impact on the quality of life of those with chronic injuries. “Exercise is the best medicine,” said Alpert. “We are changing lives beyond merely physical recovery. We are restructuring minds, philosophies, mental outlooks and emotional progression.”