'Helmet' Fundraiser Raises Funds for Injured Armstrong Alum

Chris Hansen of Maplewood sustained severe brain injuries while rollerblading with his two dogs earlier this year. The Oct. 19 fundraiser is also awareness event for helmet use.

On April 10, life changed in an instant for Maplewood resident Chris Hansen.   

While rollerblading with his two dogs at a park near his home, he had an accident resulting in severe brain injuries.

Hansen, who grew up in New Hope and is an Armstrong High School graduate, says he doesn’t remember what actually happened the afternoon of April 10.  However, others have helped him piece together the details of what led to his severe injury.

An avid member of the dog rescue community, Hansen left his work at Lakes Area Realty the afternoon of April 10 and went rollerblading with his two dogs. One dog, Jeffrey, was an abused rescue dog Hansen was fostering.

“We think he [Jeffrey] got upset seeing another dog, got twisted up and tripped me up,” Hansen said, saying that he was told he fell backward and hit his back and head on the pavement.

“I was told I had taken my rollerblades off and was wandering around,” he said. His dogs ran away, with Jeffrey taking off toward the other dog and the other dog eventually found at Hansen’s home.

Others have told Hansen that he wasn’t responding after the incident, police were called and he was transported to Regions Hospital in St. Paul.  

The brain injury Hansen sustained during the accident left him not only hospitalized, but also in an induced coma while his brain continued to swell. One of his multiple surgeries included removing part of his skull to allow his brain to swell, according to Hansen as well as complications leading to his lungs and kidneys failing during the weeks in the ICU.

Weeks after the injury began, Hansen began recovering and eventually woke up to see his mother and girlfriend, “not sure what happened” and “”still not sure why I was there,” he said.  Nearly a month after the accident, he was moved from the ICU and began his rehabilitation process and coping with the pain. As he prepared to return home two months after the accident, Hansen was told that during his hospitalization his father had passed away and about the loss his dog Jeffrey due to the accident.

Hansen continues to move forward with his recovery, continuing with therapy, appointments and changes in his lifestyle – with injuries continuing to heal.

“Hopefully, one day it [the pain] will go away,” he said.

As a former hockey player and youth coach in St. Louis Park, his career and involvement in dog rescue, he was used to an active lifestyle. 

“I’m more appreciative to be alive and have what I have,” said Hansen of life after the accident. “This has changed my life.”

With the loss of Jeffrey, Hansen and his girlfriend later decided to bring another foster dog into their home – Raisin.  “I needed it because of what happened to Jeffrey,” he said of fostering. “It energizes me – gives me a kick in the ass to know that its not all about me.”

At 44-year-old old, Hansen says that he takes it one day at a time and “not everyday is great.”

“Whether its good or bad, that’s for me to decide,” he said.

The Benefit

Hansen said it has been “overwhelming” the number of people that have reached out to him since the accident, stating, “it’s meant everything to help me get through.”

Several friends from the dog rescue community decided to coordinate the “What the Helmet” fundraiser Oct. 19 at the Maple Tavern in Maple Grove to help Hansen and raise awareness on the importance of helmets.

“We will have raffles and an auction – and yes, guests are encouraged to wear helmets of all sorts (hockey, biking, motorcycle),”said St. Michael resident and former Maple Grove resident Jenna Berneck, the founder of Rovernight Network, board member of Adopt Me Dog Rescue. Others coordinating the event include Sue Bergeson the president of Adopt Me Dog Rescue and Kim Kallestad, Chris’ girlfriend and board member of Adopt Me Dog Rescue.

Information on the Friday, Oct. 19 event can be found on the “What the Helmet” Fundraiser for Chris Hansen website here

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