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Napa teen severely injured in snowboarding accident faces ordeal with positive mindset

Napa teen severely injured in snowboarding accident
Napa teen severely injured in snowboarding accident 03:01

RENO -- With mom and dad by his side in a hospital room in Reno, Blake Mendenhall, 15, is taking on an unexpected battle with the mindset that anything is possible.

"It's getting better every day. I'm feeling a lot better and improving. Getting my strength back," he said.

While snowboarding in Tahoe, Blake caught an edge on the slopes and crashed into a tree. He fractured his spine in two places.

"Between T4 and T5, and then a complete fracture from T7 to T8. That's exactly where the spinal cord was completely severed," said his mom, Tasha Abri.

Blake Mendenhall
Blake Mendenhall recovering in Reno.  Mendenhall Family Photo

Blake underwent hours of neurosurgery and now has rods holding his spine together. Right now, he can't move his legs. It's a tough prognosis for a standout athlete at Vintage High School in Napa.

Despite the hand he's been dealt, Blake is approaching the challenge with positivity and grace.

"There's always a light at the end of the path. You won't see it at first. But you'll realize that it was all worth it in the end," he said. "Every day, believe that it will get better, and it will."

"He's just an amazing child who is thriving in every way," said his dad, Adam. "He won't let this stop him."

As Blake rebuilds his strength, strength for Blake from others continues to grow. The Napa Valley community rallied behind Blake's family.

"It just shows who he is as a person," Abri said.

Locals and strangers supported a fundraiser that's been set up for current and future medical costs.

But shows of support and strength are coming in other forms, too. "Team Blake" is written in the snow across the top of the parking garage at Renown Hospital in Reno.

Even famous athletes have caught wind of Blake's accident and are sending him personalized videos to show support for the young man. That includes NFL player Davante Adams, professional sit-skier Trevor Kennison, and WCMX rider Aaron Wheelz Fortheringham.

"Thank you for all of that love and support and for being there for Blake. It's just been such a blessing," his dad said.

Blake said he'd like to get back to snowboarding and surfing and playing his favorite sports again. He knows it won't be an easy journey, but he plans to take it head on with optimism.

"Definitely hard on my part, but I believe that it will come," he said.

And he reminds everyone the importance of approaching life with a positive mindset – no matter what cards you're dealt.

"Have fun in every moment because life doesn't last that long," Blake said. "Even if you're having a bad day, just make it a good one."

Blake will soon be transferred to Craig Hospital in Colorado, a facility that specializes in neurorehabilitation and care for people who've sustained a spinal cord injury.

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