As a kid, Jasper Hall knew his gait was a bit different than his friends. But when he was able to compete in varsity football and tennis, he assumed it was a minor thing. He developed a hop in his step, a small movement that he figured could be managed with time.
Jasper was used to overcoming obstacles, used to navigating his way through challenges that could have derailed him. Jasper’s parents fought addiction, and he grew up in a difficult home environment, which often made school more challenging. “I tried to always have the victor mentality,” he said. “But that can be hard when you don’t have a good support system.”
By age 12, Jasper learned that his unusual gait wasn’t something that could be corrected over time. He was diagnosed with a rare medical condition called Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia, a disease that causes weakness and spasticity in the legs that progressively worsens.
Just 10 years later, Jasper wasn’t able to run anymore, and not long after that, he required the use of a wheelchair. Life as he had known it was flipped upside down.
“I live in Maine and it’s terrible for accessibility,” Jasper told us. “Getting around is nearly impossible, and the amount of damage propelling a wheelchair does to the upper body is astounding. Tendonitis, muscle soreness…it’s a lot.”
“My disease has prevented me from doing the things I am most passionate about. While I currently use a wheelchair for mobility, I’m unable to navigate most terrains in Maine, and I even have some difficulty on some paved sidewalks due to the weather affecting the roads.”
Jasper also really missed being active and having the freedom to roam the outdoors. He couldn’t compete in the sports he loved anymore, and it was devastating. Then came disc golf.
“It’s a sport in which everything slowed down, and I could finally compete again,” he shared. “The feeling was overwhelming! There is such a unique feeling to being able to rise above my physical limitations and stand a fighting chance in this sport.”
But the upper body fatigue was real, and it threatened to sideline him once again.
One of the biggest challenges his condition poses is spasticity, which just means his muscles are chronically tight. It’s like trying to find the sweet spot between being too loose and not having the strength to stand or ambulate, and being too tight, which creates similar problems. And propelling himself everywhere he wants to go with just the strength of his arms is tough in any environment, let alone one as unforgiving as Maine in January, as evidenced by this gif of spinning ice.
Jasper’s mental health really struggled after his mobility declined, and finding disc golf and experiencing the outdoors again brought light back to his eyes. Plus, with two adoring little girls and a loving wife at home, he wanted to be able to keep up and enjoy life with them. But how?
One day, Jasper was online doing some research when he stumbled upon Grit Freedom Chairs, a manual, all-terrain wheelchair built for the outdoors. On that particular afternoon, he was struggling with immense pain in his arms, so when he read that the Grit chair provides 40% less strain on the upper body, he was hooked.
When he saw the price, though, his heart sank. The chair was $6,143 and way beyond what he could afford on his own.
He also weighed that against the cost of a recumbent bike trainer, another device with the potential to change his life in different ways. It goes back to his spasticity and that balance between too tight and too loose.
Recently, Jasper had surgery to place a pump in his abdomen that dispenses a muscle relaxer through a catheter directly into his spinal column.
It’s called a Baclofen pump, and it has the potential to reduce his spasticity enough that he can build his strength and regain mobility. A recumbent bike trainer would really help him preserve the strength he has and even improve it, potentially limiting his need for a wheelchair. But once again, the nearly $8,000 price tag was too high for Jasper.
Would it be the chair that kept him outdoors and in a sport he loved? Would it be the recumbent bike that could improve his strength? Would it be neither?
Chive Charities wondered if it could be both.
When we read Jasper’s application, we kept going back to his first quote. “People don’t understand how easy it is to put one foot in front of the other. For me, it’s exhausting.
It’s true; we often take that for granted. How many times do we get up to get a drink without considering the number of steps from our chair to the sink? How many times do we casually jog down the stairs? How often do we complain about a parking spot too far from the front entrance of the store, annoyed about the inconvenience?
We really don’t understand how easy it is. And if we can provide that ease to someone else, we certainly need to try.
With the support of our monthly donors, we looked at the two options in front of Jasper and made the decision for him. It could be the chair and his life today, AND it could be the bike trainer and his potential tomorrow. You made both possible for a total financial impact of $15,030 and a personal impact on Jasper that can’t be quantified.
“I just thank you all so much,” he said. “Mental health has been a huge downfall for me in recent years because of the limitations my disease has placed on my life. But I am very hopeful and excited about the possibilities these items could grant me.”
That first step is always the hardest, but if anyone can continue putting one foot in front of the other, it’s Jasper. Thank you for helping to give him that chance. Become part of the donor family supporting people just like him, making life-changing grants possible. DONATE HERE.