Just over 26 years ago Canadian paralympian Rick Hansen began his Man in Motion tour from Oakridge Mall in Vancouver, wheel-chairing around the world to raise awareness and money for spinal cord research and quality of life programs.
Four continents, 34 countries and over 40,000 kilometres later, Hansen returned to Vancouver on May 22, 1987 having raised over $26 million. The venue to welcome him home was BC Place Stadium.
With the 25th anniversary of Hansen’s triumphant return on the horizon, a nine-month relay across Canada is now in the works to begin in Cape Spear, Nfld. this Aug. 24 and end in Vancouver May 22, 2012.
The anniversary relay will feature over 7,000 Canadians passing off a singular Rick Hansen Medal as they carry the symbolic token through the country using a variety of alternate modes of transportation. Each relay day will conclude with an end-of-day celebration in one of 165 communities.
According to City of Penticton recreation supervisor Lori Mullin, Penticton has been designated as a route stop for May 3, 2012.
Mullin said the goal of the event will be to celebrate the relay’s arrival, unite the community, recognize community difference makers, showcase local talent and inspire community spirit.
The city will soon be putting together a committee of people who want to help design and organize the event, she said.
“That committee will also be involved in a selection process to find a community champion to do the last leg of the relay as it comes to our celebration event, similar to the Olympic Torch Relay where we picked a community member to bring the torch in,” said Mullin. “The committee will come up with some sort of selection process to do that.”
Penticton councillor and chair of the city’s parks and recreation committee Andrew Jakubeit said he thinks once the committee gets the ball rolling, the community will be able to create a worthwhile event “that is something that we can be proud of and that is meaningful for all involved.”
“I think there are some community groups, such as the Downtown Penticton Association, that will probably take a leadership role and will do something at Gyro Park and maybe involve some school choirs or local entertainment that will entertain and give people a reason to come down and celebrate 25 years,” said Jakubeit. “I think it will be good for our community.”
Jakubeit said Hansen is a true role model.
“To track across the world and make that commitment to being in the public eye and fulfill his dreams I think moved a lot of people and was encouraging for a lot of people,” he said. “I think in some ways Rick Hansen symbolizes Canada with his positive attitude and work ethic. He is a role model for a lot of people.
“I think a simple and meaningful celebration is in order and is something that we as a community can band together and provide.”