Why I climb: Mary Lou Jorgensen-Bacher
A longtime climber, Mary Lou shares how she’s raised over $70,000 for the cause over the years—and why she’s proud to continue taking part in the Enbridge CN Tower Climb for United Way
Mary Lou Jorgensen-Bacher isn’t your average climber. While she’s been participating in the Enbridge CN Tower Climb for United Way for over a decade—and she’s fundraised for the cause even longer—what makes her extraordinary is that she’s raised over $70,000 to date after overcoming a brain hemorrhage.
As a senior in high school, Mary Lou was accidentally knocked unconscious. Spending seven months in hospital and undergoing major operations, she’s persevered, working hard to survive. Today, the serious accident that has impacted her memory isn’t getting in her way—Mary Lou loves life and helping others. It’s why fundraising for United Way Toronto and supporting the community is her passion.
“Helping others is a way for me to do the things that I feel are so important in my life,” she explains.
For Mary Lou, it all began at work. She receives support from her colleagues—many who are also her fellow climbers— every day at the Ministry of Labour, which she’s grateful for. As a means of paying it forward, Mary Lou also takes part in her workplace’s United Way fundraising campaign. “I find that the workplace is a good place to give back,” she says.
Taking part in the Enbridge CN Tower Climb for United Way has been a natural extension of that effort, which Mary Lou has been taking part in since 1992. She didn’t mind that it meant having to get in shape and doing lots of practise climbing before the big day. “I have always been a competitive person and seeing that there was going to be a climb up the CN Tower, I jumped at the idea!” she explains.
At 54, Mary Lou refuses to slow down. Last year, she conquered the CN Tower in 17 minutes and 43 seconds. Her best time was four years ago at 16 minutes and 40 seconds, which she’s hoping to beat this year. So what’s her advice for other climbers who think they can’t get to the top?
“Keep on practising. You can do it if you have the mental ability to do it. If you have many sponsors, then that is partly a reason to do it, but do it for yourself and others in our community who will be impacted by your fundraising,” she explains.
While Mary Lou’s climb times are impressive, her fundraising numbers are even more so. In her first year participating, she raised $758. In the next year she collected pledges of around $2,000. And in 2009 and 2010 respectively, she’s raised approximately $10,000 at each climb.
“United Way has helped so many people. It’s the largest way to help people in our community and is a shining example of how one person can give back.”
The funds Mary Lou has raised allow United Way Toronto to support strategies aimed at improving social conditions in the short term by meeting immediate needs and in the long term by addressing the root cause of social problems.
Because of fundraisers like her, United Way Toronto is investing in the areas that are essential for our community to thrive: strengthening communities and helping people live healthier lives by building Community Hubs; giving kids and youth every opportunity to reach their full potential by funding homework clubs and mentoring programs; and supporting people as they transition from a life of poverty into one full of potential by funding agencies providing programs like job training and financial literacy support.
What is the best part of fundraising and giving back according to Mary Lou? “Hearing of people who have had a chance at a better life thanks to United Way, and knowing that you have helped them!”