Twenty-five years ago, Rick Hansen came through Saskatchewan on his way to completing the Man in Motion World Tour.
In a wheelchair, Hansen completed the equivalent of three marathons every day through 34 countries. The trek took two years, beginning in March of 1985 until he completed his tour in 1987. He covered 40,000 kilometres in that time, raising millions of dollars for research into spinal cord injuries.
Hansen was back in Saskatchewan Feb. 4, for the 25th anniversary of the tour. Invited to take part in the celebrations and the relay was Bienfait’s Garry Hammett. The former mayor of Bienfait was selected to take part in the festivities in White City.
Hammett was one of 7,000 medal bearers from across the country to participate in the celebrations that have resulted during this year’s tour that sees Hansen going back through the cities he first passed through in the 1980s.
“There were 20 different medal bearers in White City,” said Hammett. “When they started at the hall, each medal bearer would pass off to the next one, and I was the last one in White City. I carried it out to the No. 1 Highway to Lonnie Bissonnette. He was a skydiver and base jumper, and he had a spinal cord injury from base jumping. I passed off to him and he took it on to Regina.”
Hammett was injured on Sept. 27, 2003, when a construction accident damaged his spinal cord. Since then, he has been managing in a wheelchair.
“We looked it up to see how (Hansen) had his accident and he was in the back of a half-ton sitting in the back on a toolbox, getting a ride, and they lost control.”
He hit a tree and the toolbox pinned Hansen against it.
“It’s really something to see how a person of that calibre, how he continued on and trained,” said Hammett. “When I was in Wascana taking therapy, to see people with injuries, some of them don’t get out of bed and lie there all day long. It inspired me that I’m not going to be one of them. I’m going to recuperate and get out and enjoy the rest of my days.
“It’s going on nine years now,” he added about his injury. “I cope very well and get around real good.”
Awareness, added his wife Margo, is something that needs to continue to be pushed.
“For people to understand what people need, and what accessibility really means. We’ve run into instances where you phone ahead for hotel rooms, and you phone ahead to make sure it’s accessible, and you get there and they think, ‘Oh, you can’t get out of your wheelchair?’”
Garry said that accessibility has improved since his accident.
Each medal bearer carried the 25th anniversary medal about 300 metres before passing off to the next participant. Afterwards they went to Regina and attended the ceremony at Victoria Square.
Hammett said the presentations were about how people can make a difference toward spinal cord injuries and the many kinds of fundraising.
Margo said Hansen spoke about what you do after an accident that results in a spinal cord injury.
“He’s just doing this to make an awareness, to raise money and help in the research of it,” she said.
Everyone had to submit names across Canada to fill all the medal bearer spots that they needed. Hammett originally applied in Grenfell, but then transferred to White City because it was so close to Regina where he has some family members who were able to participate at the celebration as well.
“It was a real joy and pleasure to be there and meet (Hansen),” said Garry.
The Rick Hansen Foundation has raised about $252 million since his Man in Motion World Tour, which raised $26 million. All the money goes to fund spinal cord research, accessibility projects and quality of life initiatives.
The end to the 25th anniversary celebration will come in Vancouver at BC Place near the end of May.