No setback or challenge would stop Jim Christerson from offering a helping hand. After having a stroke at age 41 and unable to return to work as a technical illustrator, Jim became a volunteer at a stroke rehabilitation facility and started a lunchtime support group for stroke survivors that still meets 30 years later.
“If someone didn't have a way to come to the lunch, Jim would figure out a way to pick him or her up,” recalled his wife, Marge.
When Jim passed away in February 2019, Marge asked that donations to honor his memory be made to Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine to support stroke research. Generous friends and family answered her call. Then Marge had another thought: Could anyone use Jim’s bike? An adult trike with three wheels, it helped Jim when his balance suffered after the stroke.
Feinberg’s Office of Development put Marge in touch with Annie O’Connor, a physical therapist at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, a clinical affiliate partner of the medical school. Annie knew who would appreciate the gift.
Paying It Forward as Jim Would Have Done
On August 28, Marge and Annie personally delivered Jim’s bike to Robyn Wilhoft. Living with multiple sclerosis and recovering from a spinal cord injury, Annie knew Robyn could use the bike to exercise and get around her community.
“She was thrilled and rode it all over the neighborhood singing praises,” Annie recalled. “It was one of those experiences that allowed me to witness the greatness that comes from our patients, their families, and our hospitals—a joyful pay-it-forward event.”
Once told she would never walk again, Robyn now tries to ride her new bike every day.
“I absolutely love it,” she said. “It was an absolute amazing blessing for Marge to give me the bike. I toddle around everywhere on it. The fact that Marge was so willing to share it with a stranger is overwhelming.”
Robyn even gave the bike a name.
“I call it monarch, like the butterfly, because it lets me fly,” she said.
Marge knows that Jim would be pleased to know that someone is able to use his bike.
“He was a very caring and generous man,” she shared.
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