Under sunny skies the community of Williams Lake gathered Monday for the unveiling of the Rick Hansen monument at the Tourism Discovery Centre.
Standing 12 feet high, the monument is basically a copper globe supported by four metal pillars, which some observers have said resembles the Olympic torch podium. A thick strand of copper traces the route of the original Man in Motion Tour.
“To have this as a symbol that we’re not done, that we still have such a long way to go. It represents Williams Lake connected to the global community. The world is much smaller today than it was 25 years ago. It’s not about an individual, it’s about all of us that had that original dream that we were pursuing, and how we’re all connected,” Hansen said after the monument was unveiled.
The monument, he added, is a symbol of what’s possible when people work together.
The ceremony began with a traditional welcome and presentation delivered by Esket’emc Chief Fred Robbins and members of his community, followed by speeches from Mayor Kerry Cook, Coun. Surinderpal Rathor and Ross MacLean, general manager of Gibraltar Mine.
Robbins gave Hansen a framed photograph of a pictograph, believed to depict Simon Fraser’s tour of the Fraser River.
“He was one of the first people to come up the Fraser River with a horse and on the pictograph it’s a man with a horse and you can see the horse’s tracks,” Robbins said, adding they call the picture Travels Far Man, and that it seemed appropriate for the Man in Motion to receive a copy.
He also gave Hansen a pair of buckskin gloves, handmade by a young member of the community, who received his instructions from an elder.
“I don’t know about you, but it’s so exciting to be this close to a change maker,” said Cook as she inched her way toward him during her speech. “I felt in my heart yesterday at the celebration as I listened to his words and what he’s accomplished that if I only got close enough that some of that might wear off on me. It really shows the importance of having a dream and never letting go,” Cook said.
Everyone here believes in what Hansen has done and what he stands for, she added.
Coun. Surinderpal Rathor announced that $68,000 in pledges had been collected from community sponsors.
“There was not a single person that said no they couldn’t help when I came asking for donations,” Rathor said. “He (Hansen) has put Williams Lake on the map.”
The list of donors was extensive. A few of the largest donations came from Taseko Mines Limited, $25,000: Axis Family Resources, $10,000; and Fountain Tire Mining Service $10,000.
Rathor informed the crowd that some white rocks and lighting still need to be added at the monument, which is entirely wheelchair accessible.
“You have made this community wonderful,” he told Hansen.
MacLean said Hansen was a hero, not only in Williams Lake, but all over the province and the country.
“Through your high standards, you have set an example for everybody, an example for everyone to live up to. It’s an honour to be here to represent Gibraltar and Taseko and I think I speak on behalf of all the other contributors that it’s really been a privilege to support this monument and that represents all the values you represent,” he said to Hansen.
As the tarp was removed to uncover the monument there was a loud cheer and applause from the crowd.
“Thank you so much to the city to take time and honour our 25th anniversary in such a special and meaningful way. This city is such an incredible community of people that care and encourage each other and take time to make a difference,” Hansen said.
Williams Lake made a difference in his life and supported the Man in Motion tour, he added.
“In reality, even though we’re celebrating 25 years of progress, we’re also still on the pathway to the ultra marathon of social change. Another 25 years of hard work and determination until our community is 100 per cent inclusive for people with disabilities, until we find a cure for spinal chord injury,” Hansen said.
The monument, he suggested, is a monument to everyone with challenges and reminds them they are not alone.
“Every time I come back home I’ll see this and will be reminded that my best work’s still in front of me and I’ll be encouraged to keep going and never give up on my dreams.”