Pass me another tissue please

I’ve been wiping tears from my eyes all week with the Olympics under way. Every time there is a medal presentation and the winners emotionally respond to their national anthem, so do I.

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.’”

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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.

Published by patriciasands

Patricia Sands lives in Toronto, Canada when she isn't somewhere else, particularly the south of France. With a happily blended family of seven adult children and, at last count, six grandchildren, life is full and time is short. Beginning with her first Kodak Brownie camera at the age of six, she has told stories all of her life through photography. Much to her surprise a few years ago, she began to write and has now published three novels, including two that are part of a six-book series set in the south of France. Love France? Love her work! Check out her website She is particularly drawn to the rewarding friendships of women and the challenges many embrace once their families are grown. "It's never too late to begin something new," she enthuses. "As the saying goes, just do it!"

17 thoughts on “Pass me another tissue please

  1. I got that way when we sang Oh Canada at school and it still affects me when I hear it sung. I was six when we came to Canada and I have always been thankful for being here.I probably appreciate it more than many people who were born here and take it for granted.It’s a great place to live and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. No wonder those athletes get choked up when they do their country proud.

  2. I absolutely love the Olympics and cry at everything. And scream out with “ohhhh” with something challenging happens – or something good. I’ve been taping hours and hours to watch when I get home from work and have been waking up poor hubby late into the night with my ooooos and ahhhhs! LOL!!
    LOVE Rick Hansen’s “The Difference Makers with Rick Hansen”. They always tear me up and I think it’s such a wonderful addition to the coverage to see how far some of these athletes have come AND the people who’ve been instrumental in getting them there. It’s truly does take a community!
    And what an amazing tribute post – I’m off to visit his website!

    1. I can just hear you cheering, Natalie! With so much negative news in the daily headlines, watching the Olympics is a nice change for everyone. Let’s try to keep those good news stories coming long after the Games are over.

  3. If TV schedules could accurately tell when women’s gymnastics were on, I’d watch them, but I’m not too interested in the rest.

    Gotta admire anyone who accomplishes what Rick Hansen has done. And he’s actually older than I am. I was only 14 when he fell out of that pickup.

    1. You are right, David, with the time differences those schedules are a bit tricky to navigate. I even found myself watching (and enjoying!) water polo today! I just never gave a moment’s thought to the kind of athleticism required to do what they do and it was truly impressive. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Well, Patricia, what grand surprise…not only in meeting you, but also to find such a well-written post about one of my country’s heroes. The man is heart and soul personified.

    I really appreciate your writing.

  5. I’m just loving the games, they are only 50 miles from us, and I was in London today and we go to see an event next week!! But as you say it’s the personal stories behind the athletes – the parents support, of lives lost, it all so emotional, but it’s their spirit which stands out – their sheer determination which is inspiring me most of all.

    1. Lucky you to be so close and going to an event next week! Which one will you see? It’s been wonderful to see that the weather improved so much for the Games too. I think the whole world had fingers crossed. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Beautiful tribute to an inspirational man, Patricia! I’ve only been able to watch a few minutes here and there, a little swimming and gymnastics. It’s not like watching any other sporting event–it’s special because of the participants, their determination and strengths!

  7. I watched the whole opening ceremony and have been able to watch some of the events. It is so amazing, exhilarating, and yes .. tear-jerking. I really like how “the royals” are showing up for events, too. As Canadians, we don’t get as patriotic as some other countries but deep inside I think we are fiercely proud of our country. It’s great watching our nation’s athletes earn medals, or even try their best alongside the world’s best competitors.

    1. I like the way “the royals” have been attending too. Wasn’t the Queen a good sport about her hilarious bit in the opening ceremony? So nice to see. Your comments about our fierce pride in our country are so true. We don’t flaunt the pride but we feel it. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. What an amazing guy. I’ve been inspired by Pistorious’ story as well. I’m a huge fan of the Olympics and try to watch as much as I can, mostly swimming and gymnastics, but also rowing, archery, equestrian, cycling (of course!). I get all teary during some of the commercials as well as the medal ceremony. Or when they have the personal stories of the participants. I love learning who these people are, where they come from, what makes them strive for gold. We almost went to London this year for the games. Seeing all the people there, I’m glad we stayed home and I can watch the events in my jammies. Too many people!

    LOVE seeing the royals at the events and the Queen’s entrance to the Opening Ceremonies was AWEsome. Love her.

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