Rick Hansen inspires Old Massett

  • Jun. 21, 2010 5:00 a.m.

By Kevin La Groix–A very busy time last week in Old Masset was all started off with a visit and talk from one of Canada’s living legends. Rick Hansen paid a visit to the islands Tuesday June 15 for a tour and motivational speech. Rick has long been known as one of Canada’s greatest achievers and humanitarians. The day started early as the famed and rejuvenated culinary arts class under a new head chef instructor prepared a meal that could not be beaten. The buffet style feast consisted of two types of halibut for a main course. The first was blackened halibut with fresh salsa and the other was halibut pie with a rich seafood chowder. This was accompanied by a rice pilaf, Caesar salad, Thai salad, mixed green salad and buns with butter. For those who still had room there was chocolate mousse, fruit tarts and fruit platters. Mr. Hansen arrived by plane in the morning and immediately went to work by addressing the students of Tahayghen. He held the young students in awe with his tales from his Man in Motion tour. Rick has an ability to captivate his audiences and he did this as both students and teachers hung on every word spoken by this great Canadian. The children gave Rick a cheerful How’aa and they will remember this visit for a long time. After a tour of the village, it was time to go to the hall. Chief Councillor John T. Jones and band administrator Jason Majore shared the emcee duties. After brief words from the pair it was time to get the show in motion. Don Alder was first on the agenda. Don is a long time and close personal friend of Rick and accompanied him on his epic journey. Don is a virtual virtuoso on the acoustic guitar and has been referred to as the Jimi Hendrix of the acoustic guitar. Don’s talent was immediately apparent as he played a lead, rhythm and a drum beat all at the same time. Don himself was inspired by Rick’s words of wisdom and took his guitar playing to an extraordinary level. He’s won the International Finger Style Guitar Championship, the first Canadian to ever do so. Don also went on to say that this would not have been possible without the encouragement and support of his good friend and colleague, Rick Hansen. After a few words of introduction Rick entered the hall through the middle of the crowd to the enjoyment of all. A video of Rick was shown and many photos from his youth through present were shown. The list of achievements and accolades are far too numerous to mention, however I will try. Rick was born on Vancouver island and as a youth he enjoyed many outdoor activities such as fishing and camping. He excelled in several sports as well. After being a passenger in a motor vehicle accident, Rick was left without use of his legs. Using fortitude gained from his extensive sports training, Rick faced all challenges presented to him. Instead of focusing on what could not be done, Rick concentrated on what could be done. Rick went on to say that he started on small goals and worked his way up to anything he wanted. Rick again realized his dreams of fishing and sports and became an athlete again. He graduated from UBC with a degree in Physical Ed in 1976. He stated “The biggest disability is attitude.” Rick became a world champion in wheelchair racing twice before a shoulder injury slowed him. It was during his rehab that he discovered the love of his life and future wife and physiotherapist. With help from his wife and support from friends, Rick again became a world champion. In 1985, Rick with the support and assistance of his wife, Don Alder and others, embarked on an epic 40,000 km round the world journey through 34 countries to raise money and awareness for spinal cord research. On this trip it’s estimated that Rick covered 113 km a day through all kinds of weather and terrain. With a statue of Terry Fox given to him by Terry’s parents as inspiration, Rick and entourage spent over two years completing this odyssey. The temperatures reached 125 F in places and there were encounters with animals as well. In Australia, it was kangaroos, in New Zealand there were sheep to contend with. Back in the US, Rick met Michael J. Fox and then into Canada where 10,00 people in New Brunswick came out to meet him. It required special clothing to cross Canada during the winter but once again Rick rose to the challenge. At the end, Rick and crew arrived back in BC having raised more than $26-million for the cause. These days, Rick is the CEO of the Rick Hansen Foundation and they have raised over $200 million so far for spinal cord research. Rick has three daughters and coaches them in softball and volleyball. He is still very much a “Man in Motion” as he makes many public appearances about his journey and also about the Fraser River White Sturgeon. During his travels, he has met and worked with such noted persons as Stephen Hawking, Christopher Reeve and former Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan. Mr. Hansen has learned to ski, bungee jumped with Rick Mercer, traversed the great Wall, and inspired the hit song, Man in Motion by David Foster. Rick was also a co-lighter of the flame this past Olympics. This list could go on, but the best summary of Rick comes from his good friend Don Alder; “Rick epitomizes courage.” These three words speak the volumes that could be written about Rick.