Much has happened in recent weeks to lift the spirits of a White Rock man who was paralyzed last month in a freak hockey accident.
Richard Morrison has been switched from a respirator to a “trach” tube, which has increased his ability to communicate by enabling him to mouth words.
He’s also spent precious time with his children, and has stabilized enough to start receiving visits from close friends.
And while he’s still got a long road ahead of him – one that includes learning how to adjust to life dependent on an electric wheelchair – a visit this week from Canada’s Man in Motion, Rick Hansen, was “for sure” a boost the 47-year-old needed.
“Rick is just so inspirational. I think Richard really needed… a reminder that he’s not the only one going through this and that it will be OK,” his wife, Sheila, said the next day. “Just to hear from somebody else who’s been there. None of us can really understand what he’s going through.”
Morrison, 47, broke his neck in two places April 21, when he went into the boards head-first at Burnaby’s 8 Rinks arena during a drop-in hockey game.
The injury rendered the well-liked father of two a quadriplegic and sparked an outpouring of support. Donations have come in from across the world and efforts to spread the word have included a mention by Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster Elliotte Friedman.
Monday’s visit with Hansen, who is paralyzed from the waist down, was arranged by Amy Baumann, the City of White Rock’s co-ordinator for the Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay end-of-day celebrations (set for 5-8 p.m. Saturday, at the White Rock Community Centre).
The visit to Morrison’s room in Vancouver General Hospital’s spinal unit was also a treat for Morrison’s children.
Johnny, 6, “knew all about him,” Sheila Morrison said of Hansen, who gave the youngster The Boy in Motion, the children’s book that tells Hansen’s story.
She said her husband and Hansen chatted privately for a bit, and she could tell the conversation resonated.
“I know that Richard felt a lot better after he was there, definitely made him feel a lot better about things.”
Family friend and neighbour Kathy O’Connor was on-hand to capture photos of the visit, which she described as “amazing.”
“It was very encouraging to him, you could tell,” she said.
O’Connor noted Hansen offered Morrison help with “anything he needs.”
“It was very powerful, in a positive way… a beautiful experience for them,” she said.
Brent Silzer, a longtime friend of Morrison’s, agreed.
He said the former bartender and HandyDart driver made it “very clear” last week, after hearing about all the efforts underway to lend a hand, that he will show people his will to survive.
“He realizes he’s got nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Silzer said.
Efforts to further boost his buddy’s spirits are far from over, Silzer said, and include a “kick-ass” fundraiser June 6 at the South Surrey Boston Pizza.
And one businessman hopes a challenge to sponsor the night – at $7,500 a shot – will help boost the evening’s proceeds for the Morrison family to $100,000.
“You just feel for the story,” explained Larry Hagan, of why he believes others will rise to the challenge issued by law firm Kane, Shannon & Weiler. “We’re going to make sure this guy does OK.”
Other events coming up include a June 3 cut-a-thon at the Hair Art Academy (15585 24 Ave.); and White Rock Firefighters’ have agreed to donate part-proceeds from their barbecue at Saturday’s end-of-day celebrations.
MVT Canadian Bus, which runs the HandyDart program, is encouraging its employees to donate. Including a corporate donation of $10,000, that effort has raised about $15,000 so far.
A charity circuit class at Innovative Fitness added $2,500 to the total; the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board pitched in $1,500; and Hagan is hopeful hockey pools will raise another $20,000.
So far, $65,000 has been raised.
Tickets and information for the June 6 event, $25, are available at www.richardmorrisonfund.org