After an ATV accident on her 27th birthday left Diana Drake paralyzed from the waist down, she was told to expect to be in a wheelchair the rest of her life.
Yet, one year later, she crossed the finish line of last year's five-kilometre race as part of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on two feet, as a proud member of "Team I Will."
While her profound recovery may not be the journey all patients realize, the outdoor enthusiast credits the incredible care she received at Toronto Rehab's Lyndhurst Centre – plus a healthy dose of optimism – for where she is today.
"My care team made a huge impact on my recovery and state of mind on a daily basis," she says.
And that's why she committed, to joining this year's five-kilometre race, which took place on Sunday, and continue raising money for the essential services that Toronto Rehab provides.
In the last five years, the team has raised close to $500,000, and ongoing awareness around their shared message, which is that sheer determination should not be underrated.
A team on a mission
Robert MacDonald founded Team "I Will" following his own profound recovery.
While on vacation, Robert fell about three storeys. He was given a five per cent chance of walking again.
But Robert believed his own "I Will" mantra helped propel him through therapy, and walk again.
Realizing that this same mantra can help others facing their own adversity, Robert founded "Team I Will." Today, more than 1,500 members share a vision of supporting and helping people in the future.
"It's not just about the financial support we provide – it's about inspiring others to challenge themselves, push their limits, and know they're not alone," Robert says.
Having heard about Team "I Will" even before her accident, Diana is proud to be part of the team that helped influence her recovery.
"Team "I Will" made a huge impact on my life when I was injured, and I want to do that for future 'Dianas'!"
The last kilometre that will never be forgotten
While Diana feels a huge sense of accomplishment for crossing the finish line again this year, she still remembers last year's experience, as if it happened yesterday.
"I had made a promise to myself that I was going to cross that finish line on foot," she recalls.
"After wheeling the first four kilometres, I did just that. I took a deep breath, slowly stood up, and started walking.
"It wasn't pretty, and my form was horrible but that didn't matter. To me that last kilometre felt like the real marathon."
"Diana's story is one that can inspire us all," says Gillian Howard, Interim President and CEO of the Toronto Rehab Foundation. "Her energy and positivity coupled with her wanting to give back is at the core of what Team 'I Will' is all about."
Since 2015, Team "I Will" has raised more than $500,000, in support of the Toronto Rehab Foundation.