October 04, 2007

Trio climbs Pike's Peak to raise funds, awareness

by Christi Mathis

pikes peak

Caption follows story

CARBONDALE, Ill. – In less than eight hours, Sally Wright and Debra McMorrow completed the arduous 13-mile hike to the 14,110-foot high summit of Colorado's Pike's Peak.

Wright, assistant director of Recreational Sports and Services at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and her fellow SIUC alumna were the only Southern Illinoisans to make the grueling September climb, mastering the Pike's Peak Challenge sponsored by the Brain Injury Association of Colorado to raise funds for and awareness about brain injuries. McMorrow's son Chris, of Chicago, joined them.

"The struggle of climbing that mountain is a good mirror of the daily struggles for those who have suffered a brain injury," said Wright.

She and Debra McMorrow have seen first-hand the difficulties facing those recovering from brain injuries due to strokes, illnesses or accidents and they wanted to do something to help. McMorrow, who obtained her master's and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology from SIUC, is vice president of acquired brain injury diversification for The Mentor Network. Wright worked at the Network's Center for Comprehensive Services in Carbondale as case manager and coordinator of productive activities from 1994 to 2000. Wright earned her master's in recreation at SIUC as well.

"Brain injuries affect a lot of people," Wright said.

In fact, according to the Challenge organizers, an American sustains a traumatic brain injury every 15 seconds and every five minutes, one of the injured will die and another become permanently disabled. They report brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability for children and young adults in the United States but less than a penny of every federal research dollar goes to research control and treatment of brain injury.

Wright said she and McMorrow have personally seen the toll brain injuries, whether from car wrecks or other accidents or from illness or stroke, can have on people and their families. They've worked closely with victims, helping them rebuild their lives. Wright also notes that education is a crucial part of the picture since in many cases, things can be done to prevent brain injury.

The 2007 climb was the third for McMorrow and the second for Wright. Last year the friends finished in 8 1/2 hours and their goal this year was an eight-hour ascent, a goal they just bested. Wright said she prepared all summer for the trek by working with a personal trainer in a program including strength-training and cardiovascular work.

Joining the group of more than 400 hikers, Wright brought in $385 in donations she gathered while McMorrow's contributions totaled about $350.


Successful climbers — Sally Wright, assistant director of Recreational Sports and Services at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, stands at the finish line of the Pike's Peak Challenge along with, from left, Chris McMorrow and SIUC alumna Debra McMorrow. The trio participated in the event recently to raise awareness and funds for brain injury prevention, research and treatment.

Photo provided