Monday, February 27, 2012

Journey and the Rick Hansen 25 Anniversary Relay

Months and months ago I nominated Journey to be a medal bearer in the 25th Anniversary Rick Hansen Relay.  Rick Hansen is a paraplegic who 25 years ago wheeled himself around the world visiting about thirty four countries raising awareness about people with disabilities, accessibility issues etc. It was the Man in Motion Tour. He has continued on with the Rick Hansen Foundation raising money for research for spinal cord injuries and other issues preventing the disabled from participating fully in their environments and society as a whole.  With the anniversary run he is repeating the Canadian tour replicating the stops and even timing of the stops so that they were in the same places at the same time but a quarter of a century later.  Instead of Rick doing the relay he wanted individual Canadians taking part...Difference Makers he called them. Each participant would be given two hundred and fifty meters to run, walk, wheel, dance...whatever they chose.  Medal bearers were nominated by filling out an online form that illustrated their struggles, triumphs and contributions to their community.  There would be seven thousand chosen.  Well....Journey was chosen.  Not only was she given the chance to participate in what could be a once in a lifetime opportunity she had also been offered the prestigious position of being the end of day medal bearer.   This meant she would do her two hundred and fifty meters and at the end of her run Rick Hansen would be there to greet her and together they would bring the medal into the end of day ceremonies where local dignitaries would speak and Rick Hansen himself would offer his words of inspiration and gratitude.

The day started with the meeting of other medal bearers.  They each told a little about themselves, how they came to be participating in the relay and what Rick Hansen had meant to them in their own lives.  The room however was filled with those who were not born or just barely when the original Tour occurred.  Lawd that's the story of my life!  Everyone is younger! 

There were folks with disabilities who were leaders in their schools and active participants in athletics and who had established their own support organizations.  There were single parents who were running to be an example to their children showing that one person can make a difference.  There was a former investment banker turned aspiring speed skating Olympian.  There was an alpine skier from the 2002 Olympics.  There was a politician and can I just add that those politicians...they never quit schmoozing!  There was a geologist in his sixties who as it turns out is a VERY prominent business man who twenty five years ago together with his friends came up with the little idea that grew and grew until it earned tens of thousands of dollars for the cause with NO overhead.  He was thrilled to be a part of the relay this time around too.  There were others whose stories I can't quite remember but believe they were chosen by their corporations due to their volunteer activities but what was most outstanding to me was how resilient the human spirit is and even when crap happens as it did to many of them they spent less time moping about their circumstances and looked more at how do they improve things, not just for themselves but others as well.

 Once all the introductions were done and folks were comfortable a warm up dance was done.  Very fun to watch and from the looks on their faces fun to do as well.  It was a Katie Perry song.  I have a terrible memory but I think it was Fireworks.

Warm up complete we were loaded onto a shuttle where we would travel to each medal bearer's start point.  Music blared and cheers rang out as we applauded each person's departure with calls to them to savour the moment.  There was such a feeling of camaraderie and support with all of the participants feeling honoured and that they were a part of something way bigger than themselves.

Finally it was Journey's turn to get off the bus.  With her being left there was just me, the driver and the escort to cheer but she was greeted immediately by two handsome fellows who praised her and gave her the directions she would need for the medal transfer.  The convoy was quickly coming towards Journey and I could feel her nervousness and excitement.  She has terrific coping skills and handled it all brilliantly.  All of the medal bearers before her walked along side her with cameras clicking and video being recorded.  I think this might have been the first time she didn't feel her usual pain and stiffness in her joints and was not worried her knee would dislocate.

to be continued...

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