When I found out that Rick Hansen was going to be in Williams Lake, the city where he grew up, when the 25th Anniversary Relay passed through, I had to be there. My girlfriend and I were at the appropriate arena in plenty of time but we didn’t see Rick for a long time. “Where was he?” you might ask. Remember, a cross-Canada relay was happening, participants carrying a precious silver medal to celebrate 25 years since his “Man in Motion” tour around the world. Rick was, of course, wheeling with them.
Meantime, hometown musicians entertained us, beginning with a Drumming and Smudging Ceremony by the Williams Lake Indian Band and ending with – perhaps you have heard of him – Don Alder. Don had put his musical career on hold to “co-pilot” Rick on that World Tour, but took it up again on his return.
“I nearly gave it up,” he told us, “but Rick inspired me to go after my dream.” He’s a master hand (both of them!) on the guitar, though the sound was cranked up too loudly for me to be able to fully appreciate his incredible talent.
The stands erupted as Rick wheeled in the door. He’d been preceded by, and was accompanied by, many people young and old wearing yellow jackets – relay members. Others wearing black, slid almost unnoticed into a separate section. These dedicated people are the hands-on ‘wizards’ who make this amazing, Canada-wide Relay work.
Speeches began – short and to the point – as local leaders and politicians welcomed Rick with well-chosen words of praise. This local lad had overcome so much and continues to work tirelessly “to make a difference”. When Rick spoke, the huge arena was silent, every word meaningful to every one of us. He gave credit to the efforts of all who have given support, contributing to progress in spinal cord research. “But there is still so much more to be done,” he reminded us. “No longer ‘Man in Motion’; now it’s ‘Many in Motion’”!
Having known him all those years ago, I joined the crowd around him, once official interviews were over. And that’s when I really felt the “Magic of Rick Hansen”. When adults spoke to him, he gave them his undivided attention – encouraging, suggesting, or remembering if they were people he knew. The kids were enthralled, and Rick brought them in closer as parents and grandparents took photos. While at times he must have felt like pasting one on, Rick’s broad smiles looked genuine. Here’s a man who loves what he is doing, appreciates the ‘adoration’ that goes with it, and throws heart and soul into a cause that will bring improvements for all who are physically challenged in any way.
“Did he recognize you?” Not this time. He glanced my way a couple of times as I stood within the group, but youngsters were pressing in on both sides – and he reached out to them with his warm smile and long, strong arm. I talked to Don, but only briefly, as another person was keeping him involved in a lengthy conversation. I’m so proud of them both – and of all my students who have achieved successes, large and small. But Rick Hansen is way up there on my list of people to be admired; his ‘magical touch’ inspires everyone to make their dreams a reality.