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Fundraiser hosted to help local accident victim

Joel Stadem shoots hoops on the Lokomat, a physical therapy tool. Submitted photo

SVEA — When friends and family of a local man gather Saturday at Svea Lutheran Church to raise money for the purchase of rehabilitation equipment, they will do so with the hope that the equipment may help him walk again.

Joel Stadem, 21, the son of Pete and Kari Stadem, has made significant advances in his recovery since a diving accident last June that broke his vertebra and bruised his spine.

He is hopeful that he will walk again.

“Six months ago, I was accepting the fact that I would never walk again, but now I can totally see it,” Stadem said in a phone interview Thursday. “If I keep progressing like I am, it won’t be too much longer.”

He still vividly remembers his accident.

“I remember diving into the pool and hitting my head,” Stadem said. “I floated to the top and tried to yell for help. I couldn’t get my mouth of the water. I remember sinking down to the bottom of the pool and I passed out.”

The next thing he remembers is waking up in the hospital in a halo — an orthopedic device used to treat neck injuries — and able to only slightly move his arms.

Extensive treatments and surgeries have sent him to five different hospitals over the course of the past 14 months.

In addition to his original injuries, Stadem developed pneumonia, a hole in his esophagus, a bed sore and serious infection, all which were complications of his injuries.

Today, he has progressed to the point where he is able to move most of his limbs, except for his left hand.

“The main thing I’ve learned is how important family and friends are,” Stadem said. “Never take them for granted. I’ve never appreciated people more than I do now.”

Stadem is maintaining a positive attitude. He is an active member of Svea Lutheran Church and said support from family, friends and his faith is helping him with battle his injuries.

Louise Swenson, secretary for Svea Lutheran Church, said the parish community has been doing all it can to support the Stadem family with prayers, meals and the upcoming fundraiser on Saturday.

A potato topper dinner, silent auction and bake sale will be from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Blomkest Community Center.

“We reached out to the family,” Swenson said. “The whole church family has been reaching out. We have certainly seen how faith will lift you up and keep you going.”

Now that most of his recovery journey is complete, Stadem is ready to go home to his parents’ farm located between Blomkest and Svea.

Before his accident, Stadem studied at Ridgewater College, worked for Gorans Brothers doing construction projects and was an avid softball player.

He planned on studying business at Minnesota State University, Mankato. His injuries have delayed his studies, but he still plans on attending the university in the future.

The rehabilitation equipment purchased with help from the fundraiser will be housed at Rice Care Center in Willmar and be available for all patients to use.

Those interested in helping the cause also can donate at