Climbers show it’s possible to rise above injury and scale Willis Tower

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CHICAGO -- Since it began nine years ago, the SkyRise stair climb has raised millions of dollars to benefit the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab. More than 2,000 people took part in the ninth annual event at Willis Tower Sunday.

Jackson Cunningham's journey to the top began four years ago when he suffered a stroke at just 11 years old.

"I had vomited, and then I collapsed and I couldn’t move," Jackson remembers. "I couldn’t walk when I woke up... I went from doing baseball and basketball to doing nothing."

But after many hours of rehab, he made the hard work of scaling the Willis Tower look easy.

"It’s really cool because he went from not being able to walk one day and now he can climb 103 stories," his sister Jordyn said.

Former U.S. senator Mark Kirk also made his sixth climb after suffering a stroke nearly seven years ago.

His advice for other stroke patients: "your physical rehabilitation never ends, and don’t give up," he said.

David Alvarado from Aurora never gave up after a "horrific" car accident in 2015 left him with a traumatic brain injury and cost him his right leg. Now he uses the climb to show it's possible to persevere through tragedy.

His story, like so many other climbers, is another example of survival and determination,  103 stories in the sky.

"This climb is symbolic of my own personal journey," Alvarado said. "From the bottom to the top."

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