Do you only choose certain events to watch in the Olympic Games? I watch more television during the Olympics than any other time and every sport suddenly seems to be interesting … even weight-lifting. Seriously. Part of the reason is the great job the networks do presenting the personal stories of many of the athletes. The journeys so many athletes and their families experience on the way to participating in the Games offer valuable life lessons for all of us to hear.
The Canadian coverage is presenting many of these inspiring stories in a feature called “The Difference Makers with Rick Hansen”. I simply keep a box of Kleenex nearby. I know I’m going to need it. My post today is not just to celebrate those athletes, it’s also to say a few words about the amazing Rick Hansen.
I’m sure there are few Canadians who do not instantly recognize his name but many of you in other parts of the planet may not know of him … and you should.
In 1957, at the age of 15, Rick was thrown from the back of a pickup truck on his way home from a fishing trip. A spinal cord injury left him paralyzed from the waist down. Fate has a strange way of impacting life.
Rick was inspired by teachers, coaches and family as he came to terms with his injury and set new goals from new dreams. He went on to become one of Canada’s most decorated Paralympic athletes.
In 1985, Rick and a handful of friends set out from a parking lot in with a dream. The plan was for Rick’s team to accompany him as he wheeled though 34 countries around the world in order to raise awareness of people with disabilities and raise money for research. The Man In Motion World Tour was born.
Rick describes the beginning of the tour with his own terrific sense of humour.
“The first memory that always comes back is the miracle that allowed us to even start the whole thing,” said Hansen laughing during a recent phone interview. “We were so young and naive and full of that optimism that anything can happen and we had no idea what we were going to encounter.
I think that was a prophetic moment when we left the Oakridge Shopping Centre parking lot and we drove the motorhome that had my wheelchair on top in a box on straight into the overpass, because the motorhome was over height. It was in front of these 200 well-wishers who probably didn’t think I could do it either. ’Yeah this guy is going around the world in a wheelchair and he can’t even get out of the parking lot.’”
They did indeed get out of the parking lot after making an adjustment or two and spent the next 26 months wheeling more than 40,000 km in countries around the globe. Awareness of their quest grew as time passed and media exposure increased. When Rick and his team arrived back home in British Columbia in 1987, his personal journey into making a positive difference in the lives of others had really only just begun. It has never stopped.
The Rick Hansen Foundation was established and has leveraged the $26 million raised during the original Tour to more than $245 million in investments toward spinal cord injury research, rehabilitation and quality of life initiatives.
Rick Hansen truly is a role model and inspiration. He is not only a dedicated athlete, proud Canadian, and one of the most recognizable men in our country and but also a person who exemplifies the idea of paying it forward. There’s no one better to introduce the wonderful personal interest stories we are seeing during the Games.
Please take a few moments to visit his website. There’s even a page where you can send an online Rick Hansen medal to someone who inspires you. How cool is that?
Do you get emotional when you watch the Olympics? Is there an athlete in this year’s Games whose story has stood out above others and particularly touched you?
The logo on this page is courtesy of the Rick Hansen website.