Toronto – According to statistics from the Rick Hansen Institute, there are currently more than 85,000 individuals living with a spinal cord injury. There are nearly 5,000 new cases every year and most traumatic injuries occur in males between the ages of 15 and 39.
At the age of 15, Rick Hansen incurred a spinal cord injury due to a car crash. Since then, he has been paralyzed from the waist down. However, instead of surrendering to defeat, Hansen underwent intense rehabilitation. He then finally returned to his passion of sports.
During the 1982 Pan American Wheelchair Games, Hansen garnered nine gold medals and set nine records. In the 1984 Olympic Games, Hansen participated in the Wheelchair Exhibition.
On Mar. 21, 1985, Hansen established his Man In Motion World Tour in 34 nations for more than two years. During this time, he raised approximately $26 million for spinal cord injury research and various initiatives.
Afterwards, he created the Rick Hansen Foundation to initiate accessibility, find the cure for spinal cord injuries and make social innovations.
25 years later
On Aug. 24, Rick Hansen began his 25th anniversary relay tour starting in Newfoundland. He plans to end his tour on May 22, 2012 in Vancouver. There are more than 7,000 relay participants. In between his travels, he made a stop in Toronto on Saturday.
Throughout the day, there were various events to commemorate the anniversary. In the east end of the city, ambassador for Variety Village, Donald McCafferty, who has been blind since birth, passed on the Rick Hansen Medal to professional automobile racer Paul Tracy.
The Rick Hansen Medal is a historic medal from the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa. It is composed of 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper, which weighs approximately 400 grams. The medal is worn by individuals who are walking, running or wheeling in the cross-country relay.
At the end of the day, Hansen made his way to the Yonge-Dundas Square in the downtown core where he received standing ovations, messages of congratulations and a plaque from Canadian public officials.
Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, David C. Onley; Minister of State for Sport, Bal Gosal; and Ward 36 Scarborough Southwest Toronto City Councillor Gary Crawford, helped welcome Hansen.
“Generations and generations of Canadians, able-bodied and disabled, have been motivated to do their part to make their contributions to our country and people with disabilities have been motivated to seek the power to never give up on your dreams,” said Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, David C. Onley. “The best way we can all thank him is to walk, run or wheel to our places of work and our community and spread the message.”
Tracey Ferguson, a Medal-Bearer and member of five Paralympic teams, passed the medal to the relay organizers.
Hansen and his team will head west towards Mississauga and Oakville on Tuesday.