The Man in the Wheelchair Who Could

Posted: October 2, 2010 in Inspiring


Once in a while we come across a story that is so truly inspirational that it gives us an extra boost. We have all heard of the expression – when life gives you lemons, make lemonade! Well, easier said than done for most of us. Not so for Rick Hansen, a man who turned a debilitating injury into a lifetime of achievement and giving back to the world.

In 1973, as a teenager, Rick was riding in the back of a pickup truck with his friend. The truck rolled over and Rick was badly injured. At the hospital, he could not feel or move his legs and was informed that he had badly damaged his spinal cord.

In 1985, he began a “Man in Motion World Tour” – where he wheeled about 40,000 kilometers in 4 continents. People, inspired by this mammoth of a challenge he was taking on, went along with him to help him. They cooked meals, drove behind him in a camper, planned maps and did repairs on his wheelchair. On average, Rick wheeled for 8 hours a day, covering roughly 85 km per day. The tour took 2 years and 2 months to complete and raised $26 million, all of which went to spinal cord research to assist other people with spinal cord injuries.

After the first successful tour, Rick established a foundation as well as “Wheels in Motion” (see links below) which continue to organize annual wheelchair races and other events to raise money for spinal cord research. To date, the foundation has raised $200 million and Wheels in Motion has raised $11 million.

Today, Rick continues his goal of transversing the globe, visiting more countries and bringing to people everywhere the living image that a person in a wheelchair can be active, competitive, athletic and able. He plans to visit 6 more countries by 2012 and to raise an additional $200 million by May 2012.

During his first time on the road, he also fell in love with his physiotherapist, Amanda – they got married and have 3 daughters together. She remains a vocal and present supporter of his goal to assist more and more people with disabilities.

As we read this story, we should walk away counting our blessings – I certainly did. Sometimes, nearly tragic events in life can steer us towards the right direction. It is absolutely inspiring how Rick took what was in essence a life sentence of immobility and turned it into a journey of thousands of kilometers that touched hearts and minds. He took his bad experience and made it into a positive one for the rest of us. Let’s think of people like Rick today and use their motivation and will power to decide to do something good for our communities.



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