By Kristi Lynn

SPRING LAKE–When tragedy strikes, you have two choices. You can either stay down or get up and fight. For 18-year-old Spring Lake graduate Spencer Cobb, fighting was the only answer.

A tragic spinal cord injury left the two-time all-state swimmer in serious condition, but sheer will and determination and the support of family and friends have given him the strength to keep fighting.

Cobb was injured on Halloween Night, 2021, when he took a teenage dare that changed his life forever. Cobb dove into a lake head first and made contact with the sandy bottom. He fractured his C4, C5, and C6 vertebrae in his neck, which left in immobile, but conscious in the cold water.

“I instantly knew I was debilitated,” said Cobb.

Cobb spent the next 4 months in Mary Free Bed in Grand Rapids doing intense physical and occupational therapies. Originally, told he would never walk again, Cobb was determined to prove them wrong.

Cobb graduated last spring, and with hard work and determination of a warrior, he was able to walk across the stage with the help of his wheeled walker to receive his high school diploma. That same determination has pushed Cobb to physically improve with daily therapy from a paralyzed state to a “decrease in functionality” below the neck and waist. That means very limited movement.

Spencer Cobb at 2022 Spring Lake graduation (Photo courtesy of Allison Cobb)

A strong support system can help push you to the next level and Cobb is not only fiercely and stubbornly independent and determined, but has had family and friends beside him since Day 1.

“I have had tons of support from friends and family, teammates and complete strangers,” he said. “My social circles have not changed. My friends have been amazing and my girlfriend too. They have done so much to adapting to my injury. We go to restaurants, the beach and just hang out. I can go on hikes with anybody on a paved trail and I love to play board games.” Cobb considers himself a chess fanatic and loves to play euchre.

Life’s biggest challenge for Cobb is “going from complete independence to dependence.” His goal is to be almost completely independent around the house and to drive a vehicle.

“That would be amazing,” Cobb said. “I would like to play golf again someday. I was pretty good.”

Cobb’s mother, Allison, made a calendar of his day-to-day progress when their journey began at Mary Free Bed. When Cobb feels down, frustrated or can’t see progress, he looks back at the calendar to see just how far he has come. Allison also has taken video clips to show him.

So many milestones have been reached for Cobb like feeding himself, sitting up, rolling over in bed and getting up stairs … all the things so many take for granted. Allison said her son has always been determined.

“He has always studied without being told,” Allison said. “He had a 3.8 grade-point-average and continues to push himself now with his therapy. The trouble with a spinal cord injury is that they cannot tell you where you will end up. It’s different for everyone.”

Cobb’s daily routine keeps him progressing and said he likes to challenge himself. After breakfast, he does his normal routine of brushing his teeth and getting dressed then he goes to the garage to work out for 30-60 minutes. Then he takes a short nap because he is exhausted. Then he returns to working out to develop his upper body strength.

Not only has Cobb relearn what used to come naturally, but the family also has had to modify their home.

Ramps, handles, railings and carpet need to be removed and reinstalled for Cobb to get around in their home. A Go Fund Me was originally started by family friend Staci Brown to help with medical costs, transportation costs, living expenses and modifications to the home.

An unnamed stranger in the area, who has a spinal cord injury similar to Cobb, reached out to the family to help out in anyway he could. That stranger suffered his severe injury during his senior year decades ago.

“I sent him my house plans,” Allison said. “He told me what I needed and how I needed to do things around the house for Spencer. I didn’t know where to begin. This angel was inserted into our life when we needed him most.” He continues to be in contact with the Cobb family and they remain very close friends.

“They have been amazing,” Allison said. “He and his wife. It’s been so beneficial to have them around. They are true salt of the earth kind of people. They are so kind, willing and helpful. They understand what we are going through.”

“Spencer is very positive,” Allison said. “He has had the best attitude through all of this. He tackles new things and challenges himself with it.” Cobb didn’t participate in contact sports so swimming was the perfect sport.

Allison reminds us that there are so many people “who sympathize but can’t empathize” with their situation.

This fall, Cobb will have a new and exciting challenge. He will be attending Muskegon Community College. Prior to his accident, Cobb had a swimming scholarship to attend Xavier University this fall. Xavier will honor his scholarship and hold it despite the injury. The goal is to attend Xavier after one year at MCC.

Cobb is considering a career in criminology and also entertaining a career in the medical field.

If Cobb had to share a piece of advice to others, it would be “appreciate what you have when you have it. And, don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Good advice to take from a true warrior who lives it daily.

How to help

The Tri-Cities Kiwanis is hosting a Fall Fest Run on Saturday, September 24. A portion of the proceeds will help support Spencer Cobb’s recovery. The event will include a 5K, 10K and a Kid’s Fun Run.

The event will begin at 8 a.m. with the starting point being at Spring Lake’s Central Park, 899 Central Ave. The course winds through the neighborhood and returns to Central Park.

The cost is $30 and all registered participants will receive a “Dri-Fit” shirt. Awards will be given for the top finishers in each age group.

For more information, visit the Tri-Cities Kiwanis website at

Spencer Cobb at 2022 Spring Lake prom (Photo courtesy of Allison Cobb)