Team shot of participants
Participants in the 2015 Rocket Ride 4 Rehab celebrate their fundraising success. (Back, L to R) Peter Kaufman, Lara Kaufman, Howard Rocket, Jonny Rosenthal, Cindy Yelle. (Front) Rich Vander Wal. (Photo: Toronto Rehab Foundation)

Lara Kaufman was 41 years old when she experienced a stroke, following a ski accident, that left her completely paralyzed on her left side. That was in 2010.

Today, she is fully independent and is able to multi-task, drive, can walk a mile in under 30 minutes, and volunteers several hours each week, peer counselling stroke survivors.

She believes that the most important aspect in her recovery has been her positive attitude. 

"Stroke recovery is like climbing a mountain," she says. "It takes hard work, perseverance and patience. But the view from the top is spectacular. "

Grateful for the life-changing care she received at Toronto Rehab, Lara, along with fellow rehab patient Howard Rocket, founded Rocket Ride 4 Rehab in 2015.

The goal of the event is to raise awareness and funds in support of the organization that, true to one of the hospital's slogans, made incredible happen in their recovery and lives.

Howard had returned to Toronto Rehab 20 years after his stroke, still experiencing total paralysis in his hand and arm. Thanks to Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) therapy at Toronto Rehab's Rocket Family Upper Extremity Clinic, he has made incredible strides in regaining mobility and function on his left side.

"These accomplishments could not have happened without the staff, the therapy device and the research at Toronto Rehab," says Howard. "Support [for this ride] will go directly to supporting patients like me to regain function, mobility and dignity."

Now in its third year, the event is rocketing to new heights as participants unite to set a Guinness World Record for the most money raised by an event of its kind.

On Oct. 14, this five-hour static cycling event in Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square will have more than 1,000 participants spinning their way into the record book.

Meet the extraordinary team

This year, Lara and Howard have pulled together an extraordinary team of stroke survivors to share a recumbent (reclining) bike:

Michael Hazell, who suffered a severe stroke in March 2016, also likens his life's journey to climbing a mountain. "Today the mountain I climb is quite different," Michael shares in his fundraising profile. "It is much higher than the mountain I was climbing pre-stroke but with your continued help and support and programs like those at Toronto Rehab I will climb it with others like me and we will continue to live productive and fulfilling lives."

Sajeevan Eswarakumar was only 27 when his stroke occurred in November 2012. Saj arrived at Toronto Rehab on a stretcher and was able to walk out two months later. He started a blog about his recovery, hoping to inspire other stroke survivors.

Glen McCarthy's passion for cycling has motivated his ongoing recovery. Following his first stroke, he focused on an ambitious goal to cycle the Tour de France route. He made the trek but has since suffered another stroke. The power of the bike continues to motivate him – as does the opportunity to help set a world record.

Join the ride

The Toronto Rehab Foundation continues to recruit teams of five cyclists to join in setting the Guinness World Record and supporting the incredible research and care at Toronto Rehab. For all the details, please visit the event website.

It’s not too late in join the fun for the 3rd annual Rocket Ride 4 Rehab. (Video: Toronto Rehab Foundation)
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