When Amanda Lewis rolls onto the stage at Gyro Park on Thursday, she will be just the first of a line of Penticton celebrities taking to the stage that afternoon.
But Lewis’s contribution is needed to get things started. She will be carrying the Rick Hansen medal with her, having been chosen for the honour last month. The Penticton Indian Band drumming group will provide an official welcome when Lewis and the medal arrive, and Gail Riddal will perform O Canada, starting an afternoon celebration headlined by Nikita Afonso.
Lewis won’t be alone on her journey, though. Rather than using her power wheelchair for her leg of the medal’s journey, from the pier in Rotary Park to Gyro, Lewis will be using a manual chair, with the aid of her father, Martin.
“It’s because the ramp at Gyro Park is not very power chair friendly,” said Lewis, who added she is honoured to be chosen to carry the medal, which started its cross-Canada journey last August, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hansen’s Man in Motion tour. It’s a 12,000-km journey with the medal being passed from one difference maker to another in a 7,000-member relay.
“I’ve looked at the maps and it is just amazing the journey that this medal and all these people have taken. It’s very humbling and a very big honour to be part of, one piece of this amazing puzzle and journey,” said Lewis, who wasn’t yet born when Hansen made his journey round the world in his wheelchair.
“It wasn’t until I got older that I started doing some reading on him and what he had done. From then on I really saw him as a role model, not only for myself, but for Canada,” she said. “I just found it amazing that he could have done this. It takes a lot of determination, a lot of willpower as well as a lot of dreaming to do something like that.”
Lewis is no stranger to dreaming and determination herself. A longtime volunteer, advocate and motivational speaker, she is also an active and long-time 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.
“I just love how he didn’t let anything stand in his way. He had a dream and he went after it,” said Lewis. “That’s not only good for people with special needs to see, but people of all types and varieties, because it is something that speaks to all of us. Regardless whether it is a challenge you can see or one you are given in life, we all have them.”
The Rick Hansen Relay will travel along several Penticton streets Thursday afternoon. Celebrations will start at 3:30 p.m. in Gyro Park with an official ceremony at 4 p.m., after Lewis makes the final leg of the relay trip to the celebration.
“We are so excited that Nikita, Penticton’s own rising star, will perform after the relay arrives,” said Lori Mullin, Penticton recreation supervisor. Local entertainment also includes performances by professional musician and instructor Will Shlackl, Miss Penticton Jolene Hayter and Dr. Eclectic, aka singer-songwriter Allan Markin.
For information like route maps, a copy of the poster and details on the Penticton end of day celebrations, visit www.penticton.ca/rickhansen. For more information about the Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay, visit www.rickhansenrelay.com.