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As many of you know, Jon, in pursuit of his dream of building a house, fell off our deck in Colorado this summer. He fell eleven feet to the ground, breaking his neck and sustaining a spinal cord injury for the second time. He immediately said that he was paralyzed again, but he had survived. That was the first positive. The second positive was seeing that he was able to move his shoulders, and had slight movement in his right hand. Having gone through this before, I knew that any movement was a good sign, but I also knew that the road to recovery was going to be long. He was diagnosed as a C4,5 and 6 incomplete quadriplegic.

After three surgeries and a long stay in ICU, Jon arrived at Craig Rehabilitation Center in Denver ready for the hard work and challenge it takes to recover from a spinal cord injury. During his four month stay, he made amazing gains in his strength and mobility, but still has a long way to go to reach his potential. Jon is happy to be back home, and we are fortunate to have Project Walk, a spinal cord rehabilitation center only one hour from our home. Jon has started a specialized therapy program there, and is continuing to make progress. Research has shown that the first six months are critical to making the most of rehab efforts, and that people continue to make gains a year and a half to two years after the initial injury. He now has movement in all four limbs but is still unable to stand, and has limited use of his triceps and hands. Intensive therapy will give Jon the opportunity to regain the strength he needs to stand, and hopefully walk again. His drive and positive attitude are nothing short of incredible. His goal is to gain enough independence to return to teaching biology in the fall.

Updates (3)

May 26, 2014

May 24, 2014

A Special Day at the SEALFIT fundraiser

When we arrived at 10am, SEALFIT headquarters was packed both inside and outside with people pushing their physical limits on the Workout Of the Day (WOD). All the people working out were SEALFIT members that I had never met before, who were there to support my cause. As soon as the workout was finished, people began introducing themselves, and offering words of support and encouragement. Mark Divine gave introductory talk and demo before the next WOD, and when the workout began, Jenny and Hannah jumped in with the seasoned Crossfit athletes. If they only knew then how sore they would be the next day!

Family and friends began filtering in to take part or hang out and watch. Most of Jenny’s family was there, as well as friends of mine from high school and college that I haven’t seen for years. Colleagues from work were there, as were friends from our old neighborhood in La Jolla. My friend and brewer from La Jolla Brewing Company was there, and Hannah’s ballet instructor and her husband came to show their support.

A SEALFIT member who is also a fisherman brought fresh fish he caught and grilled up incredibly delicious fish tacos for everyone. At noon, Mark and the SEALFIT coaches put on a SEALFIT demonstration. SEALFIT training goes beyond the strength and endurance training of Crossfit, incorporating flexibility, meditation, mental toughness and teamwork. After the demo, Cathy Divine led a group guided visualization and meditation to send healing energy to me. It was an emotional and powerful experience.

During the afternoon WODS, lots of friends and family took part, and Jenny and Hannah did a second workout (probably not the best idea, but they couldn’t help themselves). In between WODS, it was my turn to workout. I got out of my chair onto some benches, and Coach Divine helped me with some strengthening exercises. Mark started receiving reports, pictures and videos from other Crossfit gyms across the country (and even Canada) that were participating in the event and doing the same WODS. It was another emotional moment watching a video on Mark’s phone of kids in Alberta Canada rooting for my recovery. After the last WOD, it was time to clean up, put away the weights. Those of us that were still there relaxed had a few beers and reflected on the day.

On May 10th at the SEALFIT fundraiser, I had a feeling that I’ve only had once before in my life. The first time was our wedding day in the big red barn in Idaho. It was a feeling of true community; filled with love and support. There was a powerful, tangible feeling in the air. I couldn’t stop thinking about it the next day. The feeling of “how could I be so unlucky to be paralyzed twice?” was replaced with “how could I be so lucky to be the recipient of so much love?”

A HUGE THANK YOU to Mark and Sandy, Cindy and Rich, Cathy, all the SEALFIT employees, all the SEALFIT members that participated, all the friends and family that came to the event, all the friends and family that couldn’t make it to the event, all the people that donated items for the auction, all the people that bid on auction items, all the people that donated directly to HELPHOPLIVE, and all the other gyms and athletes that participated! It was a huge success, and with all your help, OUR GOAL WAS REACHED!

May 1, 2014

SEALFIT CEO Helps Paralyzed Friend at Chance to Walk Again 2014-04-30 • SAN DIEGO, CA (April 28, 2014)

Rarely does life deal a tough hand twice, especially when it means coming back from a devastating injury; only to be injured again. For Jon Atwater, 55 that scenario is his reality as he was paralyzed in 1991 and over a decade later, is dealing with a second and identical injury that occurred in a freak accident that left him fighting to walk again.The story touched the hearts of those closest to him, including SEALFIT CEO, Mark Divine. Divine and Atwater met 15 years ago when Atwater agreed to be the Master Brewer at the Coronado Brewing Company. Divine says, “I became fast friends with both he [Jon] and his wife, Jenny.” Divine adds, “I know he will walk again. He is truly an ‘Unbeatable Mind Warrior’ and his spirit is unbreakable.”

Today, Atwater is on the road to recovery thanks to his time at the Project Walk Paralysis Recovery Center in San Diego, CA. Based on The Dardzinski Method, Project Walk is the pioneer in activity-based recovery with nearly two decades of experience working with spinal cord injuries. It’s the Project Walk mission to provide an improved quality of life for people living with a spinal cord injury, paralysis or mobility-related disorder through intense activity-based recovery backed by research and technology. Divine is the Founder of SEALFIT and Unbeatable Mind, a program that combines training for elite athletes with mental toughness. With the help of the SEALFIT community, Divine has organized a SEALFIT benefit on May 10th in which 98% of the proceeds will be donated to HelpHOPELive in honor of John to assist with Jon’s recovery at Project Walk and any home modifications needed for day-to-day living.“

We are thrilled to mobilize the SEALFIT / Unbeatable Mind Community to help Jon walk again,” says SEALFIT CEO, Divine. “Strong tribes help teammates in need.” For more information on the SEALFIT fundraiser in honor of Jon, please visit: For more information on Project Walk and clients like Jon, visit the Project Walk website at

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November 3, 2021

Jon is not only a lifelong friend, but an inspiration and role model. I hope my kids are able to take on adversity and challenges, whatever they may be, the way Jon has. So proud and so blessed to call Jon my friend.

Kevin Gitre

May 28, 2014

Sending positive thoughts and prayers your way Jon.
Sincerely, Brenda Wurtz (a friend of Pam's)

Brenda Wurtz

May 12, 2014

We are all pulling for you, and send our love and support.
John, Mel, Christina, Jon and Caroline

John Gaffney