Students, alumni team up to race for injured student

A team of 30 students and alumni raised more than $26,000 for Jake Anderson and his family. 

Image By: Photo Courtesy of Josh Goldstein

On the one-year anniversary of a nearly fatal accident that left a UW-Madison student paralyzed, 30 students and alumni teamed up to run the Chicago Half Marathon Sunday, raising more than $25,000.

Last September, junior Jake Anderson dove off a dock into Lake Mendota, severely injuring his spinal cord. The UW-Madison community immediately responded, showing support for Anderson and his family. Yet one year later, that solidarity still matters, said UW-Madison senior Alex Chapman.

“A lot of times when stuff like this happens, it’s really common for people to reach out in the beginning and be super supportive,” Chapman said. “But I think it’s really important to show him he still has so much support from all of us.”

On top of medical bills incurred because of the accident, the family still faces many other costs, from buying an electric wheelchair to remodeling their home to make it accessible. Alumnus Alex Gunn said he decided to do a fundraiser to help alleviate some of the expenses not covered by insurance.

What began as a group of three alumni with the modest goal of raising $2,000 soon grew to 30 people from Madison and Chicago.

“Every week I would get an email or a Facebook message saying that someone else was interested in joining the team, and each new person would do their part to share the fundraising link,” Gunn said. “Right now we’re over $26,000 and still counting.”

Team members with diverse levels of running experience began training over the summer. Alumnus Josh Goldstein said the training was brutal, but he found inspiration through Anderson, who became one of his best friends through their fraternity.

“Although I consider myself pretty fit, I’ve never gone on a run in my life by choice,” Goldstein said. “But this kid would give his left arm in order to just run one more mile. I looked at it like if there’s one thing I can do, it’s do it for him.”

He added that thinking of running as a privilege that Anderson works toward every day made the training easier and the race itself more meaningful.

“Something I’ll never forget is seeing him smiling beyond the finish line and knowing that all the stuff I did was for him,” Goldstein said.

Chapman, a high school friend of Anderson’s, said his condition improves every day as he’s working on becoming self-sufficient, all while maintaining a positive attitude.

More updates on Anderson’s condition, as well as a link to make donations, can be found on his CaringBridge site.

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