Longtime Penticton volunteer will usher in Rick Hansen relay

Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay will wind its way into Penticton May 3

Most who have met Amanda Lewis would not disagree that she is a person who tries to make a difference.

Now, Lewis’s drive and determination to make a positive change has been recognized, after being given the honour of carrying the Rick Hansen medal into Penticton on May 3.

The medal has been eight months on its way. Late last summer, the medal started its journey in Newfoundland, beginning a cross-country journey to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Hansen’s Man in Motion tour. In every province, a relay of medal-bearers will pass along the singular Rick Hansen Medal, created by the Royal Canadian Mint for the occasion. Though their work differs, each of the medal bearers shares the common trait of making a difference in their community.

So far, the medal has been carried by over 5,000 difference makers as it travels the long relay route from east to west coast. While Hansen himself will be present at a number of cities and stops along the 25th anniversary relay, it will be some 7,000 medal-bearers who will complete the nine-month, 12,000-km journey before concluding in Vancouver on May 22.

“Amanda is incredibly deserving of the community medal bearer title,” said Lori Mullin, City of Penticton recreation supervisor. “She embodies the spirit of Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion Tour and is an inspiration to us all.”

The Penticton Relay Community Planning Team issued a call for nominations last fall, seeking “difference makers” throughout the area willing to not only take part in the relay, but be catalysts for positive change. Twenty-three-year-old Lewis — a longtime volunteer, passionate advocate and motivational speaker — was selected.

Lewis, as a person living with disabilities, is also an active director on the board of the Agur Lake Camp Society, which is creating a camp providing barrier-free outdoor experiences for those with physical, sensory and/or medical challenges.

“Rick Hansen is an amazing role model, not just for people with special needs, but anybody,” Lewis said. “He was the one who championed the idea that it doesn’t matter what obstacles stand in your way, you can do whatever you dream of and what you set your mind to. He’s a personal hero of mine because of that.

“I am so honoured to be part of this relay connected to this wonderful man, who has made such a difference.”

Katie Bowling was selected as the medal bearer for the first leg on May 5, when the relay will depart the community from the Penticton Farmers Market. In addition to working for the United Way, Bowling is long-time community volunteer who has been recognized with the Duke of Edinburgh Young Canadians Award. She will also serve as Lewis’s alternate, should the need arise.

Details of the May 3 celebration in Penticton scheduled to mark the arrival of the relay will be released in the coming days. Lewis says she hopes the community marks the date on its calendar so they can take part in the planned activities.

“It’s a day and an event for people to be proud of and for everybody, regardless of physical abilities or societal barriers, to come together and celebrate our community and this Canadian role model,” she said. “I think it fits with my personal credo: The impossible isn’t impossible, it just takes a little longer.”

For more information about the Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay, visit www.rickhansenrelay.com.