During her senior year of high school, Mary Lou Jorgensen-Bacher suffered a brain hemorrhage at a church retreat.
Her memory of the incident isn’t completely clear, but she recalled that she was blindfolded in one of the retreat activities. Then she stumbled and blacked out.
She remained in the hospital for seven months, unconscious for the first two.
She said her recovery was grueling, but she had plenty of support from friends and family.
“When, when, when, when will I be able to think more clearly,” she recalled. “I was an honour student. I had 93 per cent in Grade 12 calculus and only 38 per cent in functions and relations after my brain hemorrhage.”
About 10 years ago, Bacher began building back her physical shape. She found help from others along the way, including JVS Toronto (then Jewish Vocational Services), one of over 200 organizations the United Way helps fund in Toronto.
On Oct. 20, 22 and 23, Enbridge and the United Way teamed up to hold the annual CN Tower climb. Climbers were required to make a minimum $30 donation to the United Way Toronto.
Over the past 18 years, Bacher has gone above and beyond the $30 pledge, by fundraising over $70,000.
She said she’s always wanted to help others, especially after her accident.
“I get the most amazing feeling in my heart,” she said. “People helped me so much after my brain hemorrhage.”
At age 54, she said it’s her competitive edge that’s kept her committed to collecting donations and climbing the 147 flights of stairs inside the CN Tower.
This year, Bacher raised over $7,000 and finished with a time of 18 minutes and seven seconds.
Louise Bellingham is vice-president of marketing for the United Way Toronto.
“There’s a fairly extensive process of volunteers that review where the money goes,” she said. “It ranges from things like, shelter, food, basic employment needs.”
United Way organizers expected this year’s climb raise $2.4 million, exceeding last year’s total of $2.1 million.