Twenty-five years after he began his Man in Motion Tour, Rick Hansen returned to his hometown of Williams Lake Sunday while retracing his journey across the country.
This time around, however, on his 25th Anniversary Relay, the theme has changed. No longer, Hansen said, is there simply one “Man in Motion.” It is now: “Many in Motion.”
“It is not about an individual,” Hansen said. “It is about that original dream that we’re all pushing. What that looks like is thousands and thousands of people in communities everywhere who care about making their communities accessible.
“What I see is local difference makers who really stepped up to encourage and really make a contribution to their communities.”
Hansen’s contribution to spinal chord research is well documented. Now, what he started 25 years ago has become a global movement.
“Williams Lake is connected to a global community,” he said.
“If each of us does a small part we can change anything and we can impact the world because we’re all connected.”
During the 25th Anniversary Rick Hansen Relay Sunday several local difference makers, also honoured with carrying the 25th anniversary Rick Hansen medal, marched proudly throughout parts of the city with Hansen by their sides.
The final medal bearer for Sunday’s End of Day Celebration at the Cariboo Memorial Complex, Bruce MacLeod — a driving force behind accessibility improvements in his hometown of Horsefly — couldn’t have been prouder in addressing the full house gathered to celebrate Hansen’s return.
“I’m truly honoured and proud to have been chosen to do this. I’m very grateful,” MacLeod said.
Don Alder, Hansen’s longtime friend and established musician, who was riding along with Hansen in the back of a pickup truck the day of the accident that paralyzed Hansen, introduced his friend to the crowd. Alder spent the first two months of Hansen’s original journey across the world at his side.
“He taught me so many things on this two-and-a-half-year trip he took around the world,” Alder said.
“After the tour, he inspired me to go on with my music. He said this one prolific thing … he said, ‘Donny, you of all guys, 30 years you’ve been with me, should be the first to realize that sometimes people don’t pursue their dreams because of the fear of failure. And failure is just not having the courage to try.'”
Following presentations and speeches by local officials including mayor Kerry Cook, Cariboo Regional District chair Al Richmond, Williams Lake Indian Band chief Ann Louie, Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett and Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson, Hansen spoke to the hundreds in the audience.
Hansen, in addressing the crowd, said he’s proud to call Williams Lake his hometown. He was also thrilled to hear Richmond speak about the recent $401,250 in funding from the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development’s Community Recreation Program to help develop wheelchair accessible wilderness trails from Wells to Bridge Lake and areas in between.
“When I was growing up my whole life revolved around physical activity and the use of my legs and the outdoors,” Hansen said. “It was a huge part of who I was as a person. To be able to get access to the outdoors and be a part of the environment with family and friends is such a huge part of being human. It’s making the concept of accessibility and inclusion total and whole. I’m thrilled.
“I’m very proud there’s been a contribution here and I hope and encourage others to the same. Hopefully when we get to Vancouver on May 22 a whole lot of barriers fall between now and then.”
Hansen concluded by saying it is Williams Lake and the people who have helped make him the person he is today.
“It’s family, it’s friends, it’s community … You [Williams Lake] raised this child to believe in himself.”