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Thousands Climb Willis Tower To Benefit Rehab Institute

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credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Thousands climbed to the top of the Willis Tower Sunday to help thousands more take a step toward recovery. SkyRise Chicago benefits The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports on a few of the inspirational journeys.

It always stands an impressive 110 floors above Chicago, but this day a journey to the top of the Willis Tower was more symbolic than most.

Each step taken here Sunday helped to raise funds for those bouncing back from traumatic physical injury.

That includes Mike Burris, a former patient who traveled slow and steady from floor to floor.

“The waves slammed me against a sand bar and I was instantly paralyzed from the shoulders down,” recalls the man who now hopes to resume a life where he occasionally climbed mountains.

He’s walking again thanks to the care he received at The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Thoughts of those who have yet to make it this far kept him going.

“You think about those other patients and what they have to go through, and that helps you climb the stairs,” said Burris.

Jeff Barnes from Naperville climbed the stairs for his mom, Brenda.

“It’s just become a good rallying point for us, and even if you have to look for it, good can come of traumatic situations,” said Jeff.

His mother couldn’t make the climb with her children but was there to cheer all three of them on.

Brenda Barnes was head of Sara Lee, one of the highest ranking female CEO’s in the nation, when a stroke in May forced her to resign.

“I had seen my mother multiple times in therapy and I had wanted her to take an additional step to do one more thing, and that was going through my head as I was walking up the stairs,” said Jeff.

Her family credits The Rehabilitation Institute with an astounding recovery.

“Treating the medical condition is only half the battle, and from there to getting back to normal life is where rehabilitation comes in,” said Jeff.

We caught up 14-year-old Michael McCarthy at a rest station on the 52nd floor. He was making his fifth charity climb of a tall tower. Amazing, considering he was born without legs. He presses on, thanks to the treatment he’s received at the Institute.

“I made myself a goal and I am not going to stop,” said McCarthy. “It gets hard but I keep going.”

And he kept on keeping on for a triumphant rise to the top.

The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago is ranked as the nation’s top provider of rehabilitation care. In the end, some 2,500 climbers traveled to the top of the Willis Tower Sunday to help them continue to reach new heights.

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