Why I climb: Susan Gapka
As a member of Central Neighbourhood House’s Board of Directors, Susan Gapka is taking dedication to our community one step further by participating in a third Enbridge CN Tower Climb for United Way
While hesitant at the thought of taking on the 1,776 steps to the top of the CN Tower, when Susan Gapka was chosen to be a member of Central Neighbourhood House’s (CNH) climbing team three years ago, she took on the challenge wholeheartedly.
Working on the United Way Toronto agency’s Board of Directors, Susan has always been willing to show her commitment to our community—but the physical challenge seemed daunting to her at the start.
“I tentatively agreed without fully understanding the physical consequences. Soon afterward I began training for this new adventure,” she explains.
While enthusiastically sharing her training process with United Way Toronto’s online community, tweeting about her climbing benchmarks and exercise routine, Susan doesn’t expect to make it to the top ahead of the pack, but she’s certainly very dedicated.
“Climbing stairs is not a natural exercise so preparation is essential. After my second climb, I began incorporating more climbing in my everyday life—at the subway, at the office and at home,” she explains. “I began training in February this year; while early, it has me feeling prepared.”
This year’s climb is a special one for everyone at CNH. Founded in 1911, CNH is the second oldest settlement house in Toronto. Celebrating 100 years of serving the community, the agency hopes to mark the occasion with 100 climbers participating on their climb team this year. “It will be gratifying to be joined by so many others all climbing for a good cause,” adds Susan.
For Susan, climbing with the CNH team is very significant to her. “We begin the climb together, quickly separate, only to be reconnected at the top of the CN Tower. It is a metaphor for our life journey, as we unite for a common cause, disconnect, and reconnect at the top,” she says.
In three years of climbing, CNH’s team has raised almost $5,000 for United Way Toronto’s Community Fund at this event, which supports our over 200 member agencies working to create change in our communities. In fact, last year CNH’s campaign won the Agency Campaign Award in the 2010 Spirit Awards, which recognizes outstanding results in fundraising for United Way Toronto.
Susan’s history with CNH goes back 14 years to when she was an agency client, which is why she intimately understands the value of helping people when they need it most.
“I originally subscribed to the program for telephone access upon turning my life around following 10 years of homelessness. I struggled during those difficult years and now am blessed with a full, meaningful life,” explains Susan. “Now I am able to use my networks, physical abilities, commitment, and dedication to make a positive contribution so that others might benefit as I have.”
Fundraising for United Way Toronto means that CNH can continue their vital work in our community, which Susan focuses on when it comes to her own efforts.
“For me, the personal connection in fundraising is helpful. People are more likely to pledge in person. Everyone can play a role in fundraising for United Way Toronto. I stress that climbing is the difficult part, so if you cannot climb, please pledge for my effort,” Susan explains.
Despite the challenge of taking all those steps, Susan keeps training leading up to the Enbridge CN Tower Climb for United Way. She stays focused on her other goal besides fundraising—getting to the top. “My favourite highlight is when leaving the site I can look up, proudly point toward the top, and state, ‘I climbed it!’”