Rick Hansen Reflects on the Year Ahead
The Rick Hansen Foundation is leading the quest for a cure for paralysis after spinal cord injury and for creating an accessible and inclusive society without barriers. We are powered by a universal truth: Anyone, anywhere, can make a difference. We were happy to interview our fearless leader and CEO Rick Hansen about some of his personal and professional aspirations for the year ahead.
As we approach 2014, what are you most excited about in the year ahead?
I can’t wait to work with our amazing team, volunteers and board of directors as we head to the next level in this journey. This year we’re setting the bar even higher to advance our vision of creating a world without paralysis after spinal cord injury and an inclusive society without barriers. We’re also excited to grow our reach through our new Difference Maker initiative — a community for people to come together and make a difference at home, in schools, at work, in their community or on a national/international level. What was originally my individual journey of Man In Motion has now shifted to a global community of Many In Motion and this year I’m looking forward to seeing that community continue to grow and thrive.
What are you looking forward to in the New Year, personally?
I can’t wait to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve with my family. All my girls will be home for the holidays. They’re at that age now where they’re scattered through school and social and other activities, so having everyone together is a rare treat. I love it when we can just be together and enjoy some downtime.
What do the Hansen family holiday traditions look like?
Our holidays are defined by the amazing enthusiasm and energy of my wife, Amanda. We all love Christmas but she goes the extra mile to make everything sparkle with the Christmas spirit outside and in. Our house is our sanctuary and our place to ground and connect and Amanda makes it incredibly special. We do Christmas stockings and go watch Christmas movies. When the kids were younger there was such incredible enthusiasm and joy when they got up really early—way too early actually!—to see what Santa brought. Seeing the joy and wonder of Christmas through our kids’ eyes over the years has been wonderful. Not to mention the turkey dinner. Both my mother-in-law and Amanda are phenomenal cooks.
What are you grateful for as 2013 comes to a close?
This has been a milestone year. I’m grateful for my health, my family and my amazing relationship with my wife and my daughters. I’m so happy I was able to be the assistant coach for my youngest daughter’s volleyball team and be there for her graduation. My oldest daughter was married in January and I’m grateful for her new chapter. My wife recovered from a challenging health experience this year and she’s now doing great—I’m hugely grateful for that. I’m also grateful that I’ve been able to have some adventures with my friends and continue my conservation work with salmon and sturgeon.On an organizational front I’m grateful that we’ve nearly doubled our School Program engagement and that we’ve received $35 million from the federal government for the next five years. I’m grateful we’ve been able to make a contribution of $20 million to support researchers and clinicians at the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre to accelerate clinical research. The last year has represented the fruition of a lot of hard work by a lot of people over a long time—it’s just been an amazing year.
Fill in the blank: "The best part of my job is: “_________________”
Making a difference.
What defines a Difference Maker?
Everybody can make a difference. A Difference Maker is someone who impacts another person’s life and advances social good, someone who has been able to overcome adversity and persevere in spite of obstacles.
They devote their time, talent or finances toward something they care about. At the end of the day, I see Difference Makers in so many facets of the work at the Foundation and they bring me tremendous joy. Seeing the efforts and actions of Difference Makers is probably why I am as passionate today, if not more so, than I was during the Man In Motion Tour.
If you could bring three things up into space what would they would be?
Well actually two of the three things have already gone up. The gloves I wore during the Man In Motion Tour went up with astronaut Dave Williams, former board member of Rick Hansen Institute and head of NASA Life Science. Dave is a phenomenal guy; he took the gloves up into space and then sent them back and presented them to me. That to me was such an incredible metaphor of what’s transpired in the last 25 years.And the second thing was a Difference Maker medal. We had presented it to Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to walk in space, and he brought the medal up into space—just amazing.The third item I’d love to see up in space…well, I know we’re not supposed to put space junk up there, but I’d love to see an empty wheelchair orbiting in space and then watch it re-enter the atmosphere and disintegrate, symbolizing the wheelchair on earth being something you’d only ever see in a museum.