COLUMNS: Proclaiming a local hero

Donna Barnett’s weekly column for the Williams Lake Tribune

As a member of the Official Opposition, it is not often that I provide advice directly to the government or the Premier.

However this week became an exception when the opportunity came up to recognize a well-known former resident of Williams Lake.

Most everyone recognizes Rick Hansen and his accomplishments over the years.

A native British Columbian, Mr. Hansen gained global attention and demonstrated that one person can in fact change the world.

In his case, Rick wanted to make every community more accessible and inclusive.

At the age of 15 he suffered a traumatic spine injury as a result of a car accident.

Left a paraplegic, Rick Hansen eventually became an accomplished wheelchair athlete.

It was not until 1985 that he launched his Man in Motion Tour and inspired an entire generation. Over the course of 26 months he logged over 40,000 kilometres and traveled through 34 countries. The success of his tour was a personal accomplishment and a triumph of human will. Eventually, the Rick Hansen Foundation was established to follow through on the tour and continue raising funds and awareness.

The goal is to create a world without barriers.

Today there are millions of people around the world who can thank Rick Hansen for creating more accessible spaces and improving their quality of life. Because of Rick’s deep connection to Williams Lake, I suggested that the provincial government officially proclaim May 28, 2018 as Rick Hansen Day. This day also marks the beginning of B.C.’s first accessibility week. To mark the occasion, the government also announced a $10 million contribution to the Rick Hansen Foundation to further the work of making British Columbia a more inclusive and accessible. The money will also be used to help the Foundation further its existing programs, and push forward with new innovations.

More than 500,000 British Columbians ages 15 and older — or 15 per cent of the population — self-identify as having a disability.

This week we celebrate a man who showed that anyone can make a difference, and he continues to inspire today.

Donna Barnett is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin.

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