On Thursday Rick Hansen was on day two of his 25th anniversary relay that kicked off one day earlier in Cape Spear, Newfoundland.
When he called the Tribune, that day’s relay had just ended in the community of Mount Pearl.
The anniversary relay will retrace the journey taken by his Man in Motion tour, but Hansen is taking a more hands-off approach with the relay, making it many in motion and parachuting in to 25 different communities throughout the nine-month, 12,000-km journey across the country.
Hansen confirmed he would be in Williams Lake March 25, 2012 as he was to the day 25 years ago.
The relay is intended to recognize 7,000 local “difference makers” and to begin a journey to create healthier and more accessible communities across the country according to the relay public relations information.
In his own words, Hansen said, “This relay is more about community awareness, a sense of gratitude and celebration of success, and, of course, the recognition of the amazing people that make our communities.”
“So it makes me really proud to be Canadian and be associated with all these amazing folks and getting to know their stories and seeing the pride that they exhibit as they take that medal (anniversary medal carried by all participants) and carry it for their portion of the route and know that they’re connecting the country and they’re part of something that’s big that’s never been done before.”
Hansen laughed when he said he’s doing it the smart way this time; he joked that if relay participants complain about completing their leg in –50 temperatures through the winter he’ll remind them that he did that for months.
“It will be a fantastic national celebration anchored by grass roots community champions and all those folks who really have been a part of making the community a better place to live,” he said of the relay.
In the 25 years since that Man in Motion tour Hansen believes both accessibility awareness and spinal cord research have come a long way — that includes a greater number of people with disabilities accessing the workforce and being community leaders.
“If you look in Williams Lake, for example, there has been more accessibility to the community centre, to the Stampede grounds to schools and to shops and restaurants and movie theatres. We still have to continue to work for even more progress because there’s still lots of examples where buildings are built and are made for general access but not inclusivity where people can be employees or full participants,” he said.
As for spinal cord research, Hansen believes advancements in the last two decades have resulted in approximately 70 per cent of people with spinal cord injury experiencing success with their treatment compared to 30 per cent when he was injured.
“There’s still a long way to go in areas of science and research. There is great hope with new ways to regenerate the spinal cord in the laboratory and great hope in protecting the spinal cord right after an injury so it doesn’t die. I think what you’ll see in the next 25 years is what’s been done in the lab applied to clinical sites in clinical trials to test to see if it works and we’ll see even more people walk away in the future.”
Individuals from B.C. can still register to participate in the relay by visiting www.rickhansenrelay.com.
Williams Lake has planned a celebration event for the 25th anniversary relay for the end of March.
At a recent committee of the whole meeting, council set in motion a plan to create a new monument commemorating Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion Tour that, when complete, will sit at the Tourism Development Centre.
The plan still requires the approval from council.