Inspiration from the Man in Motion

Rick Hansen touched millions, but in Salmon Arm, as the 25th anniversary is commemorated, special connections are being remembered.

No obstacle insurmountable: Clive Bryson snapped this photo on the Hope-Princeton Highway during the Man in Motion World Tour.

No obstacle insurmountable: Clive Bryson snapped this photo on the Hope-Princeton Highway during the Man in Motion World Tour.

Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion Tour touched millions of people around the world, but in Salmon Arm, as the 25th anniversary is commemorated, special connections are being remembered.

Two Salmon Arm women attended UBC with Hansen, one who knew him in his hometown of Williams Lake and ultimately became a member of his Man In Motion team. Another Salmon Arm resident was working at GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre when Hansen underwent rehab following the car crash that injured his spinal cord at age 15. All are medal bearers in Salmon Arm.

Today, following the medal bearers’ journey from Enderby to Salmon Arm, a celebration will take place at Spirit Square in front of city hall from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. The event will include a speech from wheelchair athlete Marni Abbott, Just For Kicks dancers, music, refreshments and more. Community medal bearer Amy Witt will arrive at the square at 1 p.m. The relay convoy will remain in the area until Saturday, with no events planned on the Good Friday holiday. Some schools will be visited both today and Thursday. Hansen won’t be visiting Salmon Arm because of family commitments.

On Saturday, the relay takes off from Little Shuswap and Neskonlith land through Salmon Arm to Canoe and Sicamous.

Jeanetta Zorn  worked as a physiotherapist at Vancouver’s GF Strong in 1974. She didn’t treat Hansen directly but remembers him well.

“The most remarkable things I remember about Rick were his pleasant demeanour, how friendly he was. I certainly wasn’t surprised to see him carry on with the life he did.”

Both Heather Stanton and Patti Brock were in the phys ed degree program at UBC along with Hansen. As well as class time, Stanton was involved with sports for people with disabilities, so their paths crossed. She remembers with a laugh the time Hansen cooked moose-meat steaks for her and her roommate on her 20th birthday. Mostly, she sees Hansen, like Terry Fox – his friend from those days, as “a really highly motivated individual who played sports and was trying to make a difference.”

Patti Brock has been friends with Hansen for many years.

“The first time I remember Rick was watching him on the basketball court at our high school in Williams Lake,” she recalls. “It was 1972 and Rick was an all-star athlete in numerous sports, including his particular passions, basketball and volleyball. Two years later, I met Rick again, now under very different circumstances. He had recently returned from a long recovery at G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre, following an accident in the summer of 1973 that left him paralyzed.”

Now back at high school, and facing a new future and difficult challenges, he began assistant coaching Brock’s volleyball team.

“This began a life-long friendship for which I remain ever grateful.”

At UBC, Hansen became the first disabled student to complete a degree in PE. Throughout this time of promoting and developing sports adapted for people with disabilities, Hansen was planning his long-held dream – to wheel around the world to promote awareness and raise funds for spinal cord research, explains Brock.

“When Rick approached me and other close friends about joining him to organize the Man In Motion World Tour, there was no hesitation and it led to a four-year, full-time commitment to Rick’s incredible dream and an amazing journey.”

Hansen wheeled through 34 countries in 26 months to complete the worldwide journey that inspired thousands of people to make a difference in their communities.

Salmon Arm’s Joan Curry, now in her eighties, has been an ardent supporter of and fundraiser for the tour since Day One.

Clive Bryson stopped to take photos of Hansen as he wheeled along the Hope-Princeton Highway. He and his family then attended the homecoming at BC Place Stadium. Was Bryson inspired?

“Absolutely, who wasn’t?  I think everybody was at that time. The man still inspires me. He’s turned a tragedy into a gift where he helps other people. He’s a wonderful man, one of our great Canadians.”

For Brock, Hansen’s philosophy that each person has something special to contribute and is capable of making a difference is a central belief for her. The Man in Motion tour, 25 years later, “still represents life’s brightest moment.”

“Twenty-five years later, the concept of 7,000 medal bearers representing ‘difference makers’ creates a whole new momentum behind a new generation of Canadians. It promotes the idea that every person, through passion, courage, respect and integrity, possesses a special skill or strength  to contribute toward making a difference in peoples’ lives to form a greater world…”