The History of Project Walk

June 27, 2013

By: Mike Alpert
President/CEO at The Claremont Club

In July of 2007 Hal Hargrave Jr. was injured while delivering handicapped accessible equipment for his Father’s company to a client in Las Vegas, Nevada. While driving, Hal swerved to avoid a tire in the road and lost control of his vehicle. The truck rolled, multiple times, and pinned him until paramedics arrived. He suffered a spinal cord injury (SCI) that left him paralyzed from the neck down. After an emergency surgery, he was transferred to Casa Colina Rehabilitation Hospital where he spent several months going through post-acute and transitional living care.

Prior to his accident, Hal worked out about six days a week and was able to bench press over 300 lbs. During a visit I recommended to his family, that when he was released from rehab he should return to The Claremont Club and back into an environment that he was used to. The intent was to get him out of a sick care environment and back into a well care environment that was electric and engaging. After my visit I wondered how I was going to make the facility comfortable and accessible for him and his injuries. The answer was to convert one of our 8 racquetball courts and set it up with equipment that was built for spinal cord injured people.

In June of 2008, that conversion was completed but we had no trainers who were willing to work with Hal. They were frightened and nervous about training someone who had no feeling and who easily could be hurt. Two trainers traveled to Project Walk Headquarters in Carlsbad, California to receive specialized training. Upon completion, they were excited and ready to take on Hal’s training.

By 2012, the SCI studio (racquetball court) had 20 full-time clients working with 10 trainers. Because of the lack of space we were unable to accept additional SCI clients and a waiting list was created. We were able to convince Pomona Valley Hospital to vacate a 3,000 sq. ft. area of the Club that we had leased to them 21 months prior to the termination of their lease. This gave us the opportunity, working with the Be Perfect Foundation, to open the first Project Walk Franchise at The Claremont Club.

The Be Perfect Foundation purchased and owns the franchise. They donated all of the equipment to the Club. We own the space, paid for the build-out and are responsible for the operation of the studio. We now have 30 full-time clients, five people on a waiting list and are in the process of hiring two additional specialists.

One of the advantages of having the franchise at our Club is the connectivity between our SCI clients and our able bodied members. All of our SCI clients receive complementary Club memberships for their family and as of June 2013 we have three of them working at the Club. As the video states: “this is home”.

Project Walk is the only non-medical Spinal Cord Injury recovery facility that has peer published research papers recognized by the medical community; is actively engaged in and participates in advanced and cutting edge research and development towards intense & advanced exercise therapy; and is the only non-medical Spinal Cord Injury facility that is currently collaborating with major Spinal Cord Injury hospitals such as Kennedy Krieger, Craig Hospital and the Sheppard Center.

Project Walk exists to provide an improved quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries through intense activity-based recovery programs, education, support and encouragement. Founded in 1999, Project Walk is a non-profit 501C3 organization internationally recognized as a pioneer in the emerging field of spinal cord injury recovery. Headquartered in Carlsbad, California, Project Walk serves clients in over 20 countries, on 6 continents.