International heroes, Canadians in particular, don't come much bigger (or more gracious and humble) than Rick Hansen. It's his achievement during the Man in Motion World Tour of 1987 that the Kootenays, the province and the world are celebrating with the Rick Hansen Relay.
The event is scheduled to touch down this month here in Castlegar – on Sunday the 22nd.Twenty-five years may seem like a long time, but maybe not so long when you're looking back. To Kris Stanbra of Castlegar, memories of meeting the Man in Motion on his trans-global trek seem quite fresh. Kris shared some of those memories in an April 2 visit with the Castlegar News.
The world tour was acutely significant to Kris, who had been paralyzed for three months following a car accident in 1980.Today she considers herself one of the fortunate ones, having worked toward a point where she's able to get around with the help of a cane. She recalls some key developments that have a direct link to the Man in Motion tour.
"A couple of really important things did happen from Rick Hansen doing that tour all those years ago," said Kris. "One of them was (then Mayor) Audrey Moore starting the first disabled needs committee, and it involve people like myself, and Chris Halarewich, Cathy Lafortune and Mike Ballahura who was very involved with special needs at the schools."
Kris not only got a chance to meet the Man in Motion, but even played a bit of a warm-up role with the local hoopla. She visited all the schools, making presentations about what Hansen was up to, what a major challenge it was and why it was so important."I had specifically targetted little clips (Hansen on the Great Wall of China, for example) to show the kids," she related.Stanbra would share details with the students, like the fact that Rick Hansen would wear out up to 25 pairs of gloves in a day as he powered himself on his route... as well as the various trials and tribulations... flat tires, etc. he was faced with.
"But mainly all the support and love he also garnered along the way," Kris continued. "For me it was wonderful. I wore his sweatshirt... I believe Audrey Moore still has it." Audrey Moore certainly does still have it, and it's in like-new condition. The former mayor was wearing it this week, looking forward to the arrival of the Hansen relay.
Her Former Worship, invited to comment on the upcoming occasion, said, "It was wonderful to have Rick here, and certainly his message to the students was grand. He said 'You can do anything you want to do. You should live your life and make a difference.' He was just very inspirational to the young people. And of course, with his accident... he was living proof that you could do anything."
The local fanfare occurred outside Twin Rivers Elementary School and Kris fondly remembers a special musical offering composed by music teacher Bob Bertuzzi and his class, which was performed by the kids as Rick Hansen made his way to the stage during the Castlegar event.
"There were kids everywhere and people everywhere," said Stanbra. "It was wonderful." It was an experience Kris Stanbra was reluctant to let go of, as she explained in conclusion."We actually got in our cars and drove out towards Trail and watched him wheel by. To actually see hime en route, was pretty neat."