Last night most Canadians would not deny that Rick Hansen deserved to be an Olympic relay torch ‘runner’ in Richmond, BC. He has been a real athlete for Canada. Since 1985 he has been tireless in his fundraising efforts which began with his heroic 40,000 km. Man in Motion around the world wheelchair trip to raise $26 million for spinal cord research and to raise awareness on the potential of the disabled if barriers were removed. He still continues his fundraising and public education work on spinal cord injuries and physical disabilities. Canadian song composer, David Foster and John Parr, originally wrote the hit theme song, “Man in Motion” which was inspired by Rick Hansen and later used in the movie, ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’. Rick is a paraplegic as a result of car accident in his late teens.
This year marks the 25th anniversary for the start of his Man in Motion wheelchair trip. Most fittingly he was last night’s Olympic relay torchbearer in his home city of Richmond, British Columbia. Though I was not there, it would not be hard to imagine the excitement and inspiration felt by the cheering crowd.
In 1987, I did witness Rick Hansen towards the end of his worldwide Man in Motion trip on his way home across Canada to British Columbia. After a Toronto victory stop at City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square , he wheeled north to Lyndhurst Hospital where I was working. Lyndhurst Hospital (now Toronto Rehabilitation Centre) for several decades, was a rehabilitation hospital for spinal cord injured adults. It was the first hospital in Canada to specialize in rehabilitative care for spinal cord injuries under the pioneer leadership of the late Dr. Jousse.
Lyndhurst Hospital staff and patients, both paraplegic and quadriplegic, were waiting in the hospital gymnasium when Rick rolled in to greet us. It was truly an emotional and unforgettable moment for all. Simply his feat to have travelled so far in 34 countries, under arduous conditions, and meet us at the hospital, was much appreciated by staff who worked hard for their patients and for patients who were at various stages of physical and mental adjustment to sudden, lifelong paralysis. The applause for him was long.
Rick is still forging ahead and trying to change attitudes about the disabled. See above, for the Sept. 2009 amusing, but jaw-dropping video of the two crazy Ricks: Canadian comedian, Rick Mercer and Rick Hansen dare one another, to do a bungee jump at Whistler, BC. And Rick does do a bungee drop..in his wheelchair into the canyon and over the roaring rapids.
Not many people can do what Rick Hansen did and still does.
Some Additional Information
Interviewed on the American news show, Today Show. 1986