It’s Rick Hansen’s day, the end of a second historic journey, and the 25th anniversary of his first, so let’s celebrate.
Let’s celebrate the end of an historic relay across Canada, involving 7,000 “difference makers” of diverse abilities, ages and backgrounds. All involved in that 12,000-km trek were united around these goals — improving the quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries, and supporting the research and work that makes that happen.
Rick started this journey 25 years ago when he went around the world in a wheelchair to bring attention to the needs and rights of people with disabilities. It was a tough and lonely journey, and there were days when few noticed his demanding trek. By the time he reached the Great Wall in China, however, world attention heightened. Rick had to be lifted to the ancient wall, but he wheeled it, solo, with the same determination that pushed him through ice storms in mountain passes, and the crush of urban traffic, from North America to Europe to Asia.
That Man in Motion tour took Rick and his small team to 34 countries. He wheeled 40,000 kms to travel the world’s circumference, and raised $26 million.
No one has matched that. Ever.
Rick ended that tour with a cross-Canada journey that finished in Vancouver, B.C., his home city. That’s where this historic relay ends too, with a giant celebration tonight.
One of the most confident yet self-effacing leaders, Rick always credits others with the work it takes to boost accessibility, to raise funds for research, and to do the research that will improve life for all.
Rick celebrates this 25th anniversary of his historic journey by making history again: Consider the global conference and expo on spinal cord injury he just hosted in Vancouver, Interdependence 2012.
He’s teaching youngsters what disability taught him, about its opportunities for personal growth and inspiration. He’s inspiring all of us, always in motion, what it means to never give up.
Rick admits that disability seemed like an ending when he learned, after a truck accident at 15, that he wouldn’t walk again. (Read about the tough moments, and the triumphs, in his book, Rick Hansen: Man in Motion, written with Jim Taylor. Rick is brutally honest about pain, anger, and loneliness.)
Disability didn’t stop Rick Hansen from being an Olympic champion over and over again, breaking one world record after another for strength and speed. It spurred him to devote his life to helping make the world a better place for people with spinal cord injuries, and really, all disabilities.
The Rick Hansen Foundation has raised more than $250 million over 25 years for everything from research to improved medical treatment.
His Vancouver conference brought together some of the world’s best brains engaged in breakthroughs for accessibility and spinal cord injury research. It also gathered leaders in disability rights, from other countries and the United Nations.
It’s Rick’s way of showing us that it takes a global community to protect and honor the rights of others, just as it takes many to contribute to his Global Accessibility Map.
Today, Rick gathers celebrities and children with disabilities to prove the world has improved for many in the past 25 years, despite the challenges. We should all thank him for that, and celebrate his dedication and leadership.
Rick Hansen is still making history as that Man in Motion.