Inspirational. Moving. A tangible sense of pride.
Words used to describe Saturday’s end-of-day celebrations in White Rock had a common theme.
The evening event at the White Rock Community Centre was held to welcome Canada’s Man in Motion, Rick Hansen, on Day 270 of his 25th anniversary relay.
Hundreds of people turned out for the occasion, cheering and parting like the sea as Hansen rolled up, flanked by runners in yellow jackets and White Rock’s own Jayme Hall, who completed the last leg of the day after being selected as the city’s final medal-bearer.
On the home stretch, Hansen joined her.
“They walked the length of the plaza straight down to the stage,” said Amy Baumann, special events co-ordinator for the City of White Rock. “It was just very touching.”
For Hall, 13, the magnitude of the moment hit as she approached the community centre.
“That really hit me, towards the end – not many people are going to be able to do this,” she told Peace Arch News. “It just meant a lot, the whole thing.”
Hall was among those who shared the stage with Hansen, telling – and showing – the crowd how she has bounced back from a massive stroke she suffered two years ago.
It was a story that wasn’t lost on Hansen.
“He said that my story was really inspiring,” she said.
Hansen’s cross-Canada relay began in Cape Spear, Nfld., on Aug. 24 and wrapped up in Vancouver on Tuesday – nine months and 12,000 kilometres later. It was organized to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Man in Motion World Tour, in which Hansen covered 40,000 kilometres through 34 countries in 26 months in his wheelchair, to raise awareness about spinal-cord injury.
This time, the journey was shorter, stayed in one country and Hansen didn’t do it alone. Hall was among 7,000 citizens – young and old – who ran, walked, wheeled or biked segments of the journey, each one passing the Rick Hansen Medal on to the next.
Saturday, Hansen lauded how far efforts have come in regards to spinal-cord research and inclusiveness of people with disabilities. Since his epic trek 25 years ago, the Rick Hansen Foundation has raised more than $250 million to accelerate progress towards a cure for spinal-cord injuries.
Describing the event as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity, Baumann said it was also a welcome chance to personally thank Hansen for his May 14 visit to White Rock resident Richard Morrison, who is in Vancouver General Hospital’s spinal unit after breaking his neck in a hockey mishap April 21.
“He shook my hand, looked me right in the eye and said, ‘You know what, Rich is going to be OK’,” Baumann said.
White Rock’s event – which was one year in the making – also featured performances from Semiahmoo Secondary’s youth band, local solo singer Payton Rector, students from the Todd Brewer School of Music, “Mr. O Canada” Mark Donnelly and a short performance from the Sources Life Skills Resource Centre Group, Events Unlimited.