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Phoenix Forward

Paralyzed teen inspires University campus

University of Phoenix fundraiser for Jack Jablonski

Paralyzed teen hockey player Jack Jablonski's resolve to walk again is an inspiration to more than his friends and family.

The high school athlete — who suffered a severed spinal cord during a December 30, 2011, junior varsity game — also inspired members of the University of Phoenix Minneapolis/St. Paul Campus to organize a fundraising event for him on April 10, according to campus director Robert Zalabak. He said he knew it was important for the campus to show its support for Jablonski.

Zalabak, a former Sporting News Radio executive producer and lifelong hockey player, says he knew the campus needed to get creative to make the event stand out, since so many local people were organizing events for Jablonski. Zalabak was thrilled when NHL Stanley Cup winner Shjon Podein committed to the event within three minutes of receiving the request.

On the day of the event, Podein shared hockey stories and signed autographs for almost three hours, helping turn the main campus building’s 10th floor into a mecca of support. Dozens of students and faculty members attended, donating money to the Jack Jablonski Fund, handcrafting greeting cards and delivering video messages of encouragement.

His positive thinking sets an example and is pushing us all to do greater things with our lives.

Podein even took a few minutes to sit in front of a video camera to speak to Jablonski. “Fight the good fight and get better every day, my friend,” Podein said. “We care about you.”

College of Humanities and Sciences instructors Bradley Sidle and David Brueshoff also spoke to supporters about Jablonski’s unwavering message to think positively, Zalabak says. Despite some setbacks, Jablonski has repeatedly defied his physical limitations with momentous steps toward recovery and rehabilitation.

His family sent a letter thanking the campus for the funds raised, cards and video message montage, as well as for having such caring staff and students. Zalabak says those at the campus are touched by the family’s heartfelt words, but he believes the courageous teen is the one who deserves thanks because many people on campus — including Zalabak — have taken his words to heart.

“His positive thinking sets an example and is pushing us all to do greater things with our lives,” Zalabak says.

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