Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Rick Hansen-Man in Motion

Terry Fox lit a flame in this country in 1980 that still burns brightly today. In 1985, another resident of British Columbia decided that he would also lead the nation by embarking on a journey across Canada. He started his trip in B. C. and headed east.

Rick Hansen had been paralyzed in a truck accident when he was fifteen. A man of incredible fortitude, he began his rehabilitation. He became the first disabled person to graduate from the University of British Columbia with a degree in physical education. He was a world class athlete, won several medals at Olympic Games, and also won nineteen marathon races.

Hansen’s dream was to make the world more accessible and inclusive, and to find a cure for spinal cord injury.

For 26 months, Hansen and his team wheeled over 40 000 kilometres in the world tour. The tour passed through Belleville in the fall of 1985. It was the day of Hallowe’en celebrations at Sir John A. Macdonald School.

I paraded my Grade Six class, in their costumes, down Avondale Road to stand on Dundas Street. There were three “Ghostbusters” in our group who left some of their ghost-fighting equipment in the ditch on the side of the road as we ambled on to see Hansen. Within minutes, Rick Hansen arrived in his wheelchair. He smiled and “high-fived” the students as he scooted past on his way to Trenton.

Rick Hansen is now in the process of re-enacting that marvellous journey. He will be in the Quinte area this coming weekend to continue the struggle to find a cure for spinal cord injury.

Wellington’s Ken Rushlow will be there to help spread the good word. Almost twenty years ago, Rushlow suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident. He has been selected to be a medal bearer in this year’s Man in Motion tour.

“It is quite an honour,” he told me. “It is similar to the Olympic Torch Relay, but in this case, we will have a special medal around our necks.” Rushlow will wear the medal for about 250 metres along Bridge Street West from the Curling Rink to Stinson Avenue. The route then travels south along Palmer Road to Dundas Street, to the precise area where we stood twenty-five years ago. Rushlow will start his leg of the relay at 9:53am on Tuesday, November 1st.

Rushlow became aware of the tour while watching television. He completed the on-line application, and was selected to wear the medal a few weeks ago. “As a medal bearer, it is my job to rally the community. Everyone is encouraged to come out and walk, bike, run, bring their pets and show their community support with me.”

Always an avid sports fan, Rushlow spent four months working in the media field in Toronto for the Global Television Network. “Jim Tatti was my boss,” he told me. “It would have been great to stay and work in that field in Toronto, but it just didn’t fit our agenda at that time”.

There is a special “End of Day” celebration planned for the city of Belleville on Monday, October 31st. There will be a gathering at the Market Square at 4:00pm, followed by another celebration at the Quinte Sports Centre at 5:00pm.

Through the Foundation that bears his name, more than $ 250 million has been raised to accelerate progress towards a cure for spinal cord injury, and a more accessible and inclusive world.

A great opportunity to support a fine organization, and to witness heroes in our midst.

James Hurst
October 25, 2011

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