Hal Hargrave Jr. overcame obstacles to help countless others

Claremont’s 2013 Fourth of July Parade honoree needs little introduction. At the tender age of 23, Hal Hargrave Jr. is a young man who worked years to bring the first franchised Project Walk clinic to Claremont. The clinic helps people with spinal cord injuries in a push to live healthy, fulfilling lives.

Having inspired paraplegics, quadriplegics and many others with incapacitating physical injuries to persevere through the Be Perfect Foundation, Mr. Hargrave is a deserved recipient of this honor, although his modesty would have you believe otherwise.

Working his first post-graduate job in his family logistics business after graduating from Claremont High School in 2007, Mr. Hargrave was driving toward Las Vegas in a semi-truck when he was forced to swerve to avoid debris in the road. The truck barrel-rolled 4 times and he broke his neck and scapula.

Mr. Hargrave fractured his T1-2 Vertebrae, with the most damaging injury to his spinal cord at the C5/C6 level. It was after an 8-hour surgery at Arrowhead Regional Hospital, and acute outpatient therapy at Casa Colina, that he began the long-term process of rehabilitation.

Mr. Hargrave spoke about how his life plans were drastically altered.

“I had aspirations to go take over the family business and pursue my career in baseball at Cal State Long Beach. I wanted to get my business degree. A month and a half after I graduated, I got into my car accident and everything changed.”

When Mr. Hargrave began going to Project Walk in Carlsbad, it was an eye-opening experience.

 “Being introduced to lots of people, you start to see the shortcomings not just with insurance companies, but also in affording the financial means of this injury,”?he said. “I came to the consensus with my dad that this was my calling, and that we needed to start the Be Perfect Foundation.”

Mr. Hargrave took it to the next level, and made a deal with Claremont Club CEO Mike Alpert.

“I realized how hard it was for people to drive 2 hours for therapy every day, so I knew we needed a spinal cord clinic closer. I didn’t really need to be recognized for it. I just want to show I care. So I asked Mike, ‘If I put X amount of money up, will you guys match it?’”

The Hargrave family presented the money to The Club, and brought the first-ever Project Walk franchise to Claremont in February of this year.

“We wanted to put a face and an image to this facility,” Mr. Hargrave said. “It started with 3 trainers who wanted to help me specifically. Then we got a base of 20 clients. Now we are at 35 clients with 8 on a waiting list.”

Spinal cord recovery is arduous, to say the least. He described the struggle in depth.

“Every day in therapy, I try to retrain my brain to connect the wires the way they were before. It’s very specific and involved, but very simple,” Mr. Hargrave said. “We teach clients to learn to live outside of their chairs, unlike hospitals that teach patients to learn inside the chair. This is exercise-based therapy.

“A lot of people see the name Project Walk and have a misconception that walking is our main goal. We don’t give clients false hope,” he continued. “This program provides them with the basic necessities of health and wellness, and the mental health aspect too. They are not alone in this, and when they come to our clinic they know that.”

Mr. Hargrave is a success story in his own right.

“I have seen great results with my overall strength and health. I am reducing my chances of getting secondary health problems,” he noted. “Functional recovery is very slow. I am like a newborn baby trying to support 170 pounds of body weight. I have gotten back some leg movement and retained a lot of muscle tone. I am not walking yet, but my mental, emotional and physical health capacities are at an all-time high.”

His roots helped him get where he is today.

“It’s been incredible, growing up in this great city. We have great support in this town,” he said. “I feel so humbled to be honored at the parade.

“I am a 23-year-old kid and have had so many of my dreams come true. I have been put into this type of spotlight, and it’s far beyond anything I could have asked for or even wanted.”

Mr. Hargrave tells people he doesn’t see why he is honored just for doing the right thing.

“It’s a testament to the people around me, the belief they have in me and what I can do. I am getting the chills thinking about being in the parade that day,” he added.

“People ask me if I would change anything about my life, and it is things like this that make me want to say no. I’ve met so many people along the way and so many great families. I am surrounded by incredible people, including my own amazing family.”

It is not the first time Mr. Hargrave has ridden down a gauntlet of people in the proverbial drop-top convertible on the Fourth.

“When I was a kid, I was always involved in the parade with All-Star baseball, and this takes me back to that. No one does the Fourth of July like Claremont,” Mr. Hargrave marveled. “I had dreams of becoming a baseball player at the D-I level. You never know what would have turned out.

“This takes me back to where it all started,” he shared. “It felt so good as a kid and now I am going to relive it as an adult for a completely different reason. It’s crazy to think how in 5 1/2 years life has changed. But I feel that it has changed for the better, as I have such an important purpose and so much support.”

—Chris Oakley



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