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Cancer took away his ability to surf. Cal Poly students and ‘helping hands’ gave it back

Jared Springer, center, was diagnosed with brain cancer after collapsing at school in 2014. He has since lost the use of the right side of his body, making traditional surfing difficult.
Jared Springer, center, was diagnosed with brain cancer after collapsing at school in 2014. He has since lost the use of the right side of his body, making traditional surfing difficult.

With his brain cancer diagnosis in 2014, Jared Springer lost more than just use of the right side of his body — the ability to participate in one of his favorite activities also vanished.

“Jared’s passion has always been to surf,” his father, Frank Springer, said in a statement this week. “Before his brain cancer, hemorrhage and stroke, he spent 4 or 5 days a week in the water catching waves.”

Though his family has attempted to help Jared Springer surf throughout his recovery by taking him into the water and helping him stay on his board, it didn’t always work, Frank Springer said. But now the 2016 Arroyo Grande High School graduate can once again hit the waves thanks to Jack’s Helping Hand and an intrepid group of Cal Poly engineering students.

The students were from a rehabilitation engineering course, which explores how to improve quality of life for individuals with physical impairments. Jack’s Helping Hand Executive Director Karen Borges approached them about crafting a special board that would help Springer surf on his own. The San Luis Obispo County nonprofit, which helps families of children with cancer and special needs, offered to fund the entire endeavor.

Their final design is an adapted paddleboard with a riser that lets Springer lie on the board without having his neck fully flexed back. It includes a handle on the front to hold onto and two skids on the back to keep his legs in place.

Springer tested out the new board June 17, riding solo for the first time since he first became sick.

“This journey has not been without its challenges,” Frank Springer said. “Some days are good, and some days are really hard. Last Saturday was one of those good days. Support like we receive from JHH has encouraged us and put smiles on our faces, especially Jared’s. We can’t say thank you enough.”

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie

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