A multiple medal winner for Canada – over the course of two Paralympic Games – Richard Marvin “Rick” Hansen’s fame comes more from his Man in Motion World Tour that began and ended in Vancouver between 1985 and 1987. He raised an incredible $26 million dollars for spinal cord research, and like his fellow British Columbian, Terry Fox, has since raised much more money and importantly, awareness.
Rick was born on August 26, 1957 in Port Alberni, BC, but grew up in Williams Lake. Hansen married his former physiotherapist, Amada Reid, and with Amanda, has had three daughters: Emma, Alana, and Rebecca. The family still lives in British Columbia. In his younger years, Hansen always enjoyed going out on fishing trips with his father and grandfather. In fact, his spinal cord injury occurred when returning home from a fishing trip (Rick was 15 at the time): he was thrown off the back of a pickup truck when it swerved and hit a tree. Fortunately for us, and due to his determination and encouragement from family, friends, and teachers alike, Rick’s rehabilitation led to countless achievements. Here are a just three from his younger years:
- The first student with a physical disability to graduate from the University of British Columbia in physical education
- Several national championships in wheelchair volleyball and basketball
- Three gold and several other medals at the 1980 and 1984 Summer Paralympics
The award count is large: Rick has won 19 international wheelchair marathons. And that’s not all. Mr. Hansen continued to amass awards and recognition before and after his Man in Motion tour. In June 1987 he was awarded the Companion of the Order of Canada. Three years later it was the Order of British Columbia. In 2006, he was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. In 2007, it was Canada’s Walk of Fame. This incredible athlete (and philanthropist) has over 35 awards and honours, which include four public schools being named after him: one in BC, and another three in Ontario. He has also amassed nine honourary appointments, including that of Honorary Colonel of the Canadian Forces Joint Personnel Support Unit, a post he still holds today. We don’t know how he’s fit in the rest – yes, there’s much more – and that includes present or former professional or association memberships. Those take into account being a Member, Living Rivers Trust Fund Advisory Board (which is current), and past member of the International Advisory Committee for Globe ’90, Congress and Exposition on the Environment.
In terms of his philanthropic and very practical work to help others, he may be best known for the Rick Hansen Foundation and the Rick Hansen Institute. He founded the former in 1986, after his world tour. Its aim is to “find a cure for spinal cord injuries and create more accessible communities.” Visit the Foundation here. The Institute is a not-for-profit organization, born from the Foundation, and its purpose is to help “accelerate the translation of discoveries and best practices into improved treatments for people with spinal cord injuries.” You can learn more about the Institute by visiting its website.
So what about the impact of Hansen’s Man in Motion World Tour? Tremendous, in a word.
Canadian record producer/composer David Foster wrote St. Elmo’s Fire for Rick. It reached #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Heart of a Dragon is a film based on the Tour, as Rick entered Beijing with over 1 million people welcoming him as a hero. The grueling world tour took Rick 26 months, as he travelled through 34 countries over four continents, logging an incredible 40,000 km in the process. Public attention was a bit slow to begin with; but not so when he returned to BC Place Stadium in May 1987 to cheering and adoring crowds. Rick was inspired by Terry Fox’ contribution and subsequently, he’s inspired countless others. To really understand the complexity and sheer magnitude of Rick’s Tour, why not take a look at it as told from Rick, team members, and the press? Here’s the link.
Rick continues to be active in fund-raising, in raising awareness, and in many other pursuits. He’s an active blogger, and recently reflected on his Man in Motion World Tour, some 27 years after it ended. In June 2014 his Foundation, along with Farm Credit Canada and the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association donated $100,000 in the Back to Ag campaign; a campaign helping farmers and various agricultural workers return to work after life-altering injuries.
There are many heroes out there, who, like Rick Hansen, make a difference.