In just a few short years, Toronto’s Robert MacDonald has built a large community around the mantra that kept him going when things got difficult.
In December of 2012, MacDonald suffered major injuries — including a dislocated spine — after he lost his grip and fell three stories off a balcony in Mexico. Paralyzed, he was airlifted to St. Michael’s Hospital and doctors gave him a 5% chance of walking again. Through months of rehab and perseverance, he had one mantra in mind — “I will”. Two years after his accident, he started running again and successfully crossed the finish line of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October 2016.
MacDonald’s recovery was facilitated by the Toronto Rehab Foundation, and so when he began to fundraise for his first marathon, he knew that was the organization he wanted to support.
“They are the largest spinal cord rehabilitation hospital in Canada, and the top rehabilitation research institution in the world,” MacDonald says. “I love how passionate they are about helping people like myself recover in the best way possible. They played a huge role in my recovery.”
After MacDonald completed that first marathon in October 2016, Team I Will became much more about building a community than just raising money.
“The focus shifted to creating a family where we supported each other in accomplishing our goals,” he explains. “We’ve continued to grow and to date have collectively raised $250,000 for the Toronto Rehab Foundation, all while creating a network of likeminded people who empower each other to set a goal and achieve it and who live life to the fullest.”
The community began with MacDonald’s personal network of friends and family who trained and completed the race with him, and has grown to hundreds who come from all walks of life. Over 150 members of Team I Will will complete various distances at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon this October, and MacDonald is pleased that new members are showing up all the time for the group sessions they hold.
“Team I Will is for everyone who wants to challenge themselves,” MacDonald explains. “We meet weekly on Tuesdays for a group run starting at Victoria Memorial Square here in Toronto (Wellington and Portland St.). All running skills are welcome, and we have wheelchair participants, too.”
MacDonald emphasizes that the group runs aren’t so much about creating strong runners, but motivating each other and helping people persevere.
“We want everyone to have a good time, build fitness and challenge themselves,” he says.
The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon remains the marquee event for the team.
“It provides such a great platform,” MacDonald explains. “We find that supporting Toronto Rehab where all this started gives a lot back to the community in general, and training for Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon provides a variety of ways for us all to connect with each other and with the community.”
The team aims to raise $200,000 this year alone. Thanks to its growing size, MacDonald is confident they will reach their goal.