HJ/EDHerald Journal, Nov. 14, 2005

Jake Beckstrom focuses on abilities, not limitations

By Dave Cox
Staff Writer

Jake Beckstrom’s world changed dramatically Aug. 11, when a diving accident left him paralyzed from the chest down, but his attitude never changed.

The Watertown-Mayer junior was active in football, basketball, and baseball.

Jake loves the outdoors, and spent his time fishing, hunting, and hiking.

One of the activities that he shared with his dad was geocaching – a hobby that involves using a handheld global positioning system device to track down caches hidden by other enthusiasts.

Jake’s activities are more limited these days, but the spirit that drives him is as strong as ever.

“He amazes me every day with his work ethic and his positive attitude,” said Jake’s father, Kurt Beckstrom.

A positive outlook is the key to Jake’s personality.

“He asks what can I do, not what can’t I do,” Kurt commented.

Determination is nothing new for Jake.

When he was 14, he told his dad that he was going to spend the entire summer camping.

That was at Christmas. He had read a book about someone spending a summer camping, and he decided he was going to do the same thing.

That spring, he scouted the back yard for a suitable campsite, and set up his tent.

He lived in that tent for the first half of the summer.

Then, a series of storms with high winds blew down some large branches that landed near Jake’s tent.

This made his dad nervous, and he forced Jake to move to a wooden shack that the two of them built near their pole barn, for safety.

Jake spent the rest of the summer in the shack.

During that summer, he kept a log book, which his mother, Elaine, is compiling into a booklet.

Jake has been at the Sister Kenny Institute at Abbott Northwestern Hospital since Sept. 11, undergoing physical and occupational therapy.

When he arrived at the institute, he had a very limited range of motion.

Things are slowly improving, and he now has some arm movement and bicep control.

He still can’t grip, and has no wrist action, but last week, he wrote a birthday note to his mother.

Using a kind of splint that holds a pen, Jake was able to write “Happy Birthday, Mom.”

It was a simple message, but it was one of many bright spots that the Beckstroms have seen during the months since the accident.

Every new thing is a victory. Every new movement is a sign of progress, Kurt said.

Things haven’t been easy, but they are grateful for the support they have received.

“There has been an overwhelming response from the community. I don’t know how we could have got through this without our friends and co-workers,” Kurt said.

The Beckstroms don’t get to see their neighbors much these days, but they know they are there.

Often, they get home to find that someone has left a meal or a note of encouragement.

They recently arrived home to find that all of the leaves had been raked up and removed from their yard.

Often these acts of kindness are anonymous. People who are doing things for the Beckstroms don’t want recognition, they just want to help their neighbors.

The high school football team came and mowed their lawn every week after the accident.

The girls’ volleyball team came in each week and cleaned the house.

When they were finished cleaning, they would take off their shoes, and leave footprints and handprints on the freshly vacuumed carpet as a kind of signature.

“It gave us a warm, warm feeling. It made us feel good that they were thinking about Jake,” Kurt said.

Sometimes, he would step over the footprints so that they would last as long as possible, to serve as a reminder of the people who care.

Another friend made up a bunch of labels with photos and a message that said, “Thank you for taking care of Jake.”

She used the labels to wrap small candy bars so that Jake could pass them out to the nurses and other caregivers.

Jake will soon be moving to the Courage Center in Golden Valley, where he will get help with life skills, learning to do as much as possible with the mobility he now has.

He has a lot to learn. Writing, brushing his teeth, and feeding himself are just some of the everyday things he will have to learn to do in a new way.

Kurt has confidence, though.

“He is a unique kid. He’s got a lot of drive,” Kurt remarked.

More changes are ahead for the family. Medical bills are mounting, and they will need to do some renovating to make their house accessible so Jake can come home. Jake will need a wheelchair, and other medical equipment.

The Beckstroms are amazed at the response they have received from the community.

“If anyone thinks civilization is dead, let them come to Watertown and look at the quality of the people here,” Kurt commented.

Benefit set for Sunday, Nov. 20

Many people have come together to sponsor a benefit for Jake to help with medical expenses.

It will be Sunday, Nov. 20 from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Medina Entertainment Center, four miles west of Interstate Highway 494 on Highway 55.

The benefit will include live and silent auctions, games, entertainment, and a raffle.

A complete list of auction items can be found at www.geocities.com/jakesbenefit/Jake_Beckstrom.

If you have questions regarding the benefit, or if you wish to help, please contact Denise Gehlhausen at (952) 237-7406, or e-mail jakesbenefit@frontiernet.net.


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