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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March 20, 1985

Today is Tuesday, and you know what time it is?  It is time for another trip back through time in the weekly Tuesday Timeline.  And boy, have I got a story to tell for today!  It’s a tale that is filled with strength, courage, and inspiration, and it is a story that is incredibly heartwarming.  I think you’ll like this edition of the Tuesday Timeline a lot.

But, first, as we do every Tuesday, we’ll take a look back on the significant events that took place on this, the twentieth day of March.

We have got a lot of things to talk about before we get to today’s date, so let’s get right to it by wishing people a happy birthday.

If you’re celebrating a birthday today, then let it be known that you also share a birthday with some famous folks.  These people include Carl Reiner, Hal Linden, Paul Junger Witt, Bobby Orr, William Hurt, Jimmie Vaughan, Louis Sachar, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Spike Lee, Holly Hunter, Kathy Ireland, Liza Snyder, Michael Rapaport, Paula Garces, Bianca Lawson, and Christy Carlson Romano.

And, here are a selection of famous events that happened on this date.

1602 – The Dutch East India Company is founded

1616 – Sir Walter Raleigh is freed from the Tower of London after a 13-year imprisonment

1760 – The “Great Fire of Boston” destroys 349 buildings

1852 – “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe is first published

1861 – The city of Mendoza, Argentina is completely destroyed in an earthquake

1914 – The first international figure skating championship is held in New Haven, Connecticut

1916 – Albert Einstein publishes his general theory of relativity

1956 – Tunisia gains independence from France

1974 – Attempted kidnapping of Princess Anne and her husband by Ian Ball fails

1987 – The FDA approves the use of AZT, an anti-AIDS drug

1990 – Imelda Marcos goes on trial for bribery, embezzlement, and racketeering

1999 – Legoland California opens up

2003 – Operation: Iraqi Freedom kicks off in the early morning hours as the United States and three other countries begin military operations

2006 – A cyclone strikes the coast of Australia, leading to the country’s 2006 banana shortage

Wow, March 20th was a wacky date in history, wasn’t it?  We saw people getting freed from towers, we saw Iraq getting invaded, and in Australia, yes, they had no bananas, they had no bananas that day.

Now, the date that I have chosen is one that is quite inspiring, as I stated before.

We’re going back to March 20, 1985.

But before we take a trip back to that date, I thought that I would get into the mood by posting a song from the same year that we’re flashing back to.

The video above is the song “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)”, recorded for the soundtrack of the 1985 film “St. Elmo’s Fire”.  Written by David Foster and John Parr, Parr took the song and made it a #1 hit in September 1985.  But, let it be known that the topic of the blog entry is not the film “St. Elmo’s Fire”.  While it was a wonderful movie, the film was actually not released until June 28.

But, here’s the thing.  When the song was recorded, it really wasn’t meant to be included in the film “St. Elmo’s Fire”.  The song was actually written in response to an event that was announced exactly twenty-seven years ago today, on March 20, 1985.  It was an event that captivated the world, and raised awareness on a cause that was near and dear to the person who kicked the event into gear. 

For it was on this date in 1985 that Rick Hansen’s “Man in Motion” tour was announced in the media, the actual event beginning just hours later.

Now, I see some of you wondering, what was the “Man in Motion” tour?  Who founded this event?  What exactly was the event?  Would you like to know how the “Man in Motion” tour came to be?  I bet you do. 

I’d like to introduce you to Richard Marvin Hansen, though most of you probably know him best as Rick.  Born in British Columbia, Canada on August 26, 1957, Rick spent the first few years of his life the same way an average child would.  He grew up in the community of Williams Lake, British Columbia, and he spent the first fifteen years of his life doing what other boys did.  He attended school, he had a loving family, and he really had a lot of success in the field of athletics.  When he was a teenager, he was already making a name for himself in the world of sports, actually winning all-star awards in five different sports.  I couldn’t even dribble a basketball in grade school gym class, let alone win even one all-star award.  For Rick to win five was nothing short of remarkable, and it seemed as though nothing would stop him.

But fate would step in and change Rick’s life forever.

When Rick was just fifteen, he was involved in a serious accident.  He and a friend were riding in the back of a pick-up truck when the driver of the truck started to lose control.  The truck smashed into a tree, and Rick was thrown from the vehicle.

As a result of this accident, Rick suffered a spinal cord injury, and he ended up being paralyzed from the waist down.

I have to say, not that I have any experience with spinal cord injuries at all, but I imagine that for most people who have either sustained them, or who know someone who has had spinal cord injuries, it must have been an incredibly devastating event.  To go from being able to walk to being confined to a wheelchair would be an incredibly tough pill for anybody to swallow.

Yet, Rick Hansen seemed to take what happened to him all in stride.  He wasn’t going to let the fact that he couldn’t walk stop him from living his life.  After enduring years of rehabilitation, he graduated high school, and ended up being the first person to complete a degree in physical education at the University of British Columbia.  Not only that, but Rick also refused to let his injury stop him from doing the one thing that brought him joy before the accident.


Rick Hansen enrolled in various championships involving wheelchair basketball and wheelchair volleyball, even winning several.  From there, he progressed to wheelchair marathoning, and competed in both the 1980 and 1984 Paralympic Games.  During this time, he won nineteen international wheelchair marathons, three of which were world championships.  And, his performances in the Paralympics also garnered much attention, as he ended up winning six medals total between 1980 and 1984, including three gold medals, two silver medals, and one bronze!  And, on top of all that, he still found time to coach high school basketball and volleyball teams!  I’m exhausted just typing all that out!

Certainly Rick Hansen found a way to take what happened to him and turn it into a positive.  But it wasn’t until 1985 that he would take that infectious positive attitude and turn it into a worldwide spectacle.

Inspired by Terry Fox’s “Marathon of Hope” in 1980, in which Fox had intended to run across Canada after losing a leg to cancer, Rick was inspired to do the same in the name of spinal cord research.  As many of you may well know, Terry Fox’s plan to complete his “Marathon of Hope” was sidelined midway through due to a recurrence in his cancer, and sadly, Fox passed away in 1981 before completing his marathon.  Rick Hansen was so inspired and motivated by the courage and strength that Fox showed during his own marathon attempt that he was more than determined to follow through with his plan.

In fact, Hansen’s plan was more ambitious.  Rather than simply stop at a cross-country tour, Rick wanted to circle the entire circumference of the world in his wheelchair.

It was a noble plan, and the first of its kind.  And, certainly I imagine that some people were convinced that he would not be able to achieve such an inspired and ambitious goal.  But, Hansen stuck to his guns, and in March 1985, the “Man in Motion” tour kicked off in Vancouver, British Columbia.  If you click on the link below, you’ll be directed to an interview that Rick Hansen gave with Canadian journalist Valerie Pringle about the tour which aired on CBC Television on, you guessed it, March 20, 1985.

And, so, the “Man in Motion” tour began.  Initially, the “Man in Motion” tour didn’t get much media attention outside of Canada, but as Rick travelled to more and more countries, the attention grew.  By 1986, he was the subject of much attention from international media outlets, and he was awarded the title of Canadian Newsmaker of the Year in 1986 (he would also earn the title in 1987 as well).  A lot of companies ran endorsement deals and ran commercials in support of Hansen’s tour.  Below, you can watch a commercial for McDonald’s supporting the “Man in Motion” tour from 1986.

(And, yes, I remember that ad as if it aired yesterday!)

Over the next two years, Hansen’s tour continued.  He visited such places as the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower, and he even stopped off in Miami, Florida to do some fishing!  And, if you click on every place I mentioned in this paragraph, you can watch clips of Rick Hansen at each of these places and many more.  Seriously, watch each one, and really take note at the pure joy and the determination that is shown on Rick’s face.  Total inspiration if I ever have seen it.

The “Man in Motion” tour ended on May 22, 1987, when Rick Hansen arrived back at Vancouver.  Upon his arrival at BC Place Stadium, he was greeted by thousands of people, and many people welcomed back a hero.  After twenty-six months, 40,000 kilometres in a wheelchair, and visiting 34 different countries, Rick Hansen’s tour was over, and he ended up raising $26,000,000 for spinal cord research!

Today, Rick Hansen is still widely considered to be a true Canadian hero.  His wheelchair that he used on the “Man in Motion” tour is now displayed in the BC Sports Hall of Fame, and it is reported that a film project based on Hansen’s journey with the tentative title “Heart of a Dragon” is in the works.

In the twenty-seven years since the beginning of the “Man in Motion” tour, Rick Hansen continues to be an inspiring Canadian icon.  He started up the Rick Hansen Foundation in 1997, and since it was founded, it has raised upwards of over two hundred million dollars for spinal cord research and programs designed to improve the quality of lives of people afflicted with spinal cord injuries.  He also started up the Rick Hansen Spinal Cord Injury Registry, which allowed doctors and experts across Canada to share vital information on what worked and what didn’t when it came to specific spinal cord injuries.

Hansen received the Order of British Columbia in 1990, was inducted into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame in 1993, was inducted into the Canada Sports Hall of Fame in 2006, and in 2007 was awarded a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.  These days, he is focused on his work with the Rick Hansen Foundation, and is married to his wife, Amanda Reid, and has three daughters.

Rick Hansen’s story could have had all the makings of being a devastating tragedy.  The fact that Rick refused to let his injury define him in a negative sense is nothing short of inspiring.  I mean, here you have a man who was left paralyzed following an accident, and yet he never once felt sorry for himself, or wanted others to take pity on him.  Instead, he took his disadvantage and made it an asset, and as a result, educated the world on spinal cord injuries, and raised awareness for the cause. 

As a result of this, I am honoured to dedicate this blog posting to Rick Hansen, a real Canadian hero.

1 comment:

  1. I remember going to see Rick Hansen outside of City Hall with my mother as kid. I shook his hand. He was very inspiring! My mother was disabled from polio as a child and was still on crutches back then.