The organizer: Lara Kaufman
The pitch: Raising $2-million and climbing
The cause: The Toronto Rehabilitation Institute
Lara Kaufman was enjoying a day of skiing in 2010 when a freak accident caused a massive stroke, which paralyzed the left side of her body.
She was 41 years old at the time and had three children; twin girls aged 10 and an eight-year-old son. “It was quite life changing, literally,” she recalled.
Ms. Kaufman, who is now 55, spent a month in the acute care unit of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and another 10 weeks at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. “I had driven by Toronto Rehab on University Avenue a million times and never knew that it existed until I needed it,” she said.
The staff taught her how to sit, stand, walk, dress and use the toilet. She still has limited mobility and her left arm remains paralyzed, but she can walk up to five kilometres and she got her driver’s licence back. “I’m independent which I am grateful for,” said Ms. Kaufman, who is an accountant. “I can do a lot of what I did before, I do it differently.”
She credits Toronto Rehab for her recovery and she started volunteering at the centre 10 years ago. She also wanted to do something to raise money for the facility and she co-founded the Rally for Rehab in 2015, an annual walk that covers up to 3½ kilometres. “It’s all inclusive to include people with disabilities, kids and dogs. Just a casual walk to get people out of the bed,” she said.
The event has raised around $2-million in total and the money supports research at the centre. This year’s walk, on Sept 10, drew 300 participants who raised more than $180,000.
“It thrills me to be able to do this for Toronto Rehab,” Ms. Kaufman said. “St. Michael’s Hospital saved my life. Toronto Rehab gave me my life back.”