After nearly three months, the 25th Anniversary Relay left Ontario on January 17, 2012 when the team crossed into Manitoba and had a quick stop just over the border in Richer. Later on, there was a cozy and welcoming End of Day Celebration in tiny Ste. Anne to celebrate the day’s Medal-Bearers and a brand new province.
During its stay, the Relay stopped by such iconic destinations as the Royal Canadian Mint, the University of Winnipeg, the Manitoba Legislature, CFB Winnipeg and The Forks public market where the Assiniboine and Red rivers meet. Despite the frigid temperatures, the spirit of the Medal-Bearers and the community support was fantastic. It’s officially winter on the Relay!
Back in 1987 when the Man In Motion World Tour finally reached Winnipeg, the team took a 7-day break, three of which were scheduled and four added on so Rick could get over a bout with the flu. They received dozens and dozens of phone calls from media, well-wishers, potential volunteers and the medical community. Of all of those calls, Rick distinctly remembers two.
The first came from a doctor at one of the hospitals the team planned to visit. He was worried about a patient and wondered if Rick would have a chat with the young man. Kevin was 14 years old and had Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a condition that attacks the spinal cord, can cause paralysis and makes regular breathing difficult. Kevin was in intensive care, on a respirator and in a bad state of depression. Fortunately, the recovery rate of Guillain-Barré Syndrome is about 90 per cent, but mental attitude is one of the key factors in that recovery and Kevin needed help.
During the hospital visit Rick spent a few minutes with Kevin and laid it on the line: how a positive attitude was so necessary to keep Rick going on the Tour, how much easier it made things when the going was at its worst, and how it was up to Kevin to prove the kind of fighter he was in getting rid of that respirator and going home as quickly as he could.
Just before the team left Winnipeg, the second call came in from the same doctor. He said Kevin had undergone a complete transformation and he was off the respirator, out of intensive care and talking about going home. Rick wasn’t sure if his pep talk made the difference but he was sure that trying to make that difference was what the Man In Motion World Tour was all about. There were hundreds of letters, from both people with disabilities and able-bodied, offering evidence that it was working. That’s why despite the cold, the exhaustion and the endless flu, Rick was warm as toast inside.
It wasn’t only feeling the awareness and excitement growing; the farther west the Tour travelled, the more Rick could see it too. There were more curbs lowered for wheelchair accessibility, more pledges from companies to construct ramps in the workplace, more media interviews – in Winnipeg, the team set a Tour record with 18 in one day – and, just as important, more signs that the media weren’t going to turn away from the problems faced by people with disabilities once the Tour had passed through.
In fact, a reporter in Regina was about to blow the accessibility story wide open.
Next up: Rick’s recollections of the Man In Motion World Tour in Regina and the 25th Anniversary Relay heads into Saskatchewan. Stay tuned…