Monthly Archives: February 2013

SCI Superstar: Rick Hansen

There are a lot of awesome things about Canada, and Rick Hansen is one of the coolest things about this beautiful place. This positive man’s journey post-injury may have began in athletics (and boy did he kick butt there), but that’s not where his resume ends; it’s where it begins. To millions of Canadians, Rick is known as the “Man in motion” for an amazing 40,000 mile journey that took two years to complete, wearing out 117 tires and 11 pairs of gloves in the process.

Why he’s fearless

Rick was injured at the age of 15 in 1973, while riding in the back of a pickup truck (it crashed, throwing him several feet). Despite being able to walk on crutches, there was no denying that he was paralyzed from the waist down. All of the sports and outdoor activities he grew up loving to do (in the small town of Williams Lake, British Columbia, where he’s from) now seemed out of reach. He had never known anybody with a disability before, and fell into a deep depression.

But then he discovered adapted sports, and his depression began to lift. Wheelchair volleyball, racing and wc-basketball were the sports he became involved in, and he got good fast. Rick won his first international wheelchair marathon in 1979, and he competed in wheelchair racing at both the 1980 and 1984 summer Paralympics, winning three gold medals two silver and a bronze. He also graduated with a degree in Physical Education at the University of British Columbia, and between 1979 in 1984, he won 19 international wheelchair marathons, including the 1984 world tour championships and the 1982 Boston marathon.

No wonder Canada loves this guy for his athletic prowess. In 1983, he received the Lou Marsh Award for Outstanding Canadian Athlete of the year (along with Wayne Gretzky, whom he shared the award with that year) and in 2000 British Columbia Wheelchair Sports named him “male athlete of the century.” If you take one look at Rick’s arm, even though he’s now 55 years old, you can tell athletics are in this man’s DNA.

It was in 1985 when he blew up even more on the scene, when he used his athletic skill for a greater good, going on the now-famous, “Man In Motion” tour, where he pushed himself 40,000 kilometers and through 34 countries. It took two years to complete (467 of those days were spent on the road) and he met his wife in the process (his physiotherapist left her job and joined him on the road. Aw). And the mission of this amazing trek? To raise money for spinal cord injury research. $26 million was raised and they also brought attention to the need to make communities more accessible and inclusive. Thankfully, a ton of great footage was taken from this epic event so you can get a taste of the excitement that surrounded it (watch here).

After his amazing odyssey, two huge things happened in his life – Rick married the love of his life, his doctor Amanda (they now have three beautiful daughters) and he founded what is now the largest disability foundation in Canada (helping millions each day) – the Rick Hansen Foundation. Their motto is really beautiful, “building a healthy, inclusive world” and they’ve helped raise a jaw-dropping $280 million towards spinal cord injury research. They also develop accessibility projects and quality of life initiatives.

What’s next

While staying busy working for his foundation and motivational speaking, environmentalism is another issue Rick has taken to. He grew up with a deep love of fishing and is an avid fisherman till this day. Knowing wild fish are endangered, he’s founding chair of the Fraser River Sturgeon Conservation Society, helping to conserve and protect Fraser River white sturgeon and their habitat. He also formed the Pacific Salmon Endowment Fund Society to help support the conservation and sustainable use of Pacific salmon stocks.

Rick also hasn’t forgotten his first love – athletics. He’s a wheelchair volleyball and basketball coach in his spare time, passing on his love of athletics  to younger generations.

Have you met Rick Hansen? How has he influenced your life?

Watch the videos!

Footage from Rick Hansen’s Man In Motion documentary (watch him roll through Europe)

Rick Hansen on-stage sharing his injury story at a We Day event

Rick Hansen opens up candidly about how he got over his depression after his injury

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of his Man In Motion tour, Rick Hansen goes skydiving on a popular Canadian TV show, the Rick Mercer Report

Rick Hansen photo courtesy of Franceso Cataldo

Need a vacation? There’s wheelchair travel!

beach  beach2

Planning an epic tropical vacation…or dreaming of getting away? There are some insanely cool accessible vacation and wheelchair travel options out there, and the wheelchair-friendly resorts, places and activities only keep getting better. They’re so sweet in fact you may just forget the whole “not being able to walk” thing. Check ’em out!

The first video comes from John “J2” Mryczko, a C5-6 quad from Chicago, IL. He and his girlfriend went on an diving vacation to Cozumel, Mexico (considered one of the best diving spots in the world) and they went with the adapted SCUBA group, Diveheart (a really cool organization founded in 2001). And while he was not at all a scuba diver before this trip, he got the hang of it right away (even if it took 4 people to get him in his wet suit).

The video shows the diving group assembling and going out on the boat, stopping at various diving sports throughout the day (with each dive lasting 40-60 minutes), and the work involved in getting everyone in and out of the water (it was a group of about 20 people with all kinds of disabilities). Once J2 gets set up in his gear, as you can see he’s quite independent in the water (the record depth they dove was 55 ft). Watch his video

The second video will make you want to visit Spain asap. In the Canary Islands, one of the most beautiful, tropical areas of this country, is one of the most wheelchair accessible beaches in the world, Los Cristianos Beach in Los Cristianos, Tenerife. This beach was created by SINPROMI disability organization and features everything you need for an integrated beach experience – accessible showers, a ramp all the way to the beach, through the sand and to the chairs themselves, floating beach chairs and Hoyer lifts to help you into them.

In the video watch a wheelchair-user (with his camera in hand) give a tour of the beach, as well as interview a father/son duo (the son has Duchennes, a form of Muscular Dystrophy) enjoying it. And it ends with the father and son duo using the beach chair and going out into the waves. I SO want to visit this glorious place. Check out the accessible beach

And our last video shows an adrenaline-fueled vacation activity only the brave have the guts for – parasailing. And Chris Colwell, a C5-6 quad from the US, shows how it’s done over the Arabian Sea in Dubai. His video shows the entire parasailing experience from start to finish – from getting into the boat, getting buckled in to being up in the air (with Chris promising the camera he’s not scared). It’s quite a thing to be up that high, so far from the boat, but with the right safety measures it can be done. Watch his video

Scuba diving, parasailing or just enjoying the beach, getting away plays a big part is keeping our minds (and hearts) happy. Yes you can, yes you can. Don’t ever think your injury will limit your vacation fun, because at least when it comes to vacations, it doesn’t have to be the case. Learn more about wheelchair travel options here!

What amazing vacations have you taken since your injury? What kind of experience do you have with wheelchair travel?

Watch the videos!

Quad goes scuba diving with Diveheart in Cozumel

Beautiful accessible beach in the Canary Islands, Spain

Chris Colwell, a quad, goes parasailing in Dubai