MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This is an exciting and emotional day for an injured high school hockey player, who has touched so many hearts.

On Wednesday, Jack Jablonski boarded a mini-van and set off for a handicap-accessible apartment his family will be renting, ready for his first night away from a hospital setting since he was injured on Dec. 30, 2011.

Jablonski says he has mixed emotions about leaving Sister Kenny institute, where he’s been rehabbing since January 23. He’s excited for the next phase of his recovery from a spinal cord injury, but will miss the support system he developed over the last few months.

“I’m excited, but it’ll be a weird change,” he said, “but it will be good.”

He wore the championship T-shirt his Benilde-St. Margaret’s hockey team won, and referred to his release as a graduation.

“It’s nice,” he said, “but obviously we’re just moving on to a new step, and a new life.”

He’s made remarkable progress since the injury, losing his protective halo, and gaining so many friends.

“We had all kinds of inside jokes with him, and a lot of fun memories with him,” said registered nurse Beth Gautier.

“What they’ve done here at Sister Kenny has been phenomenal,” said his mother, Leslie. “We’re definitely in the right place, and attached to everybody.”

Since Jablonski’s injury, more than a million people have visited his Caring Bridge page, and untold athletes have visited his room. Younger brother, Max, will make sure their jerseys all get home.

“It’s going to be a while,” said Max. “I think I counted 115 jerseys that have been given to us, and it’s just amazing.”

Now, as Jablonski gets ready for the next chapter, he reflects on what he’s learned about himself.

“I guess I’m stronger than I thought,” he said.

Jablonski’s family will live in a handicap-accessible apartment for the time-being…and he’ll continue rehab at Courage Center in Golden Valley. They say the sessions will be similar to what he’s been doing…about 3 or 4 days a week.

The family is still working on renovating their house to be handicap-accessible. They hope to have that done by the time school starts next September.


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