Rick Hansen has always been an adventurer at heart. As a young boy, he dreamed of going on a great adventure one day, and even toyed with the idea of cycling around the world with friends.
After his accident, he had to reframe what kinds of adventures were possible. He also came to see how differently society treated people with disabilities – many people saw his wheelchair before they saw him.
Following his injury, Rick was all the more grateful for the acceptance, support and guidance from those close to him: his mentor Stan Stronge; his coach Tim Frick; his friend Terry Fox; and his partner, Amanda Reid. They inspired him to “dream big” and to focus his dreams on making a difference in the lives of others.
Little more than a fantasy at first, the idea of a tour progressed along with Rick’s athletic career. The more success he had as an athlete, the more he believed he could actually wheel around the world. And the more he travelled internationally for his competitive events, the more he saw people with disabilities being marginalized. He knew that someone had to do something to show the world that people of all abilities could participate and contribute as productive members of their communities. He decided to be that someone and so planning for the Tour began in earnest. Rick assembled a team, secured the necessary equipment and sought expert advice.
On March 21, 1985, at the age of 27, Rick Hansen set out on a round-the-world journey that would make history. Inspired by the dream of creating an accessible and inclusive world, and fuelled by a deep seated belief that “anything is possible,” Rick and his team battled the elements and the odds through 34 countries on four continents.
He wheeled the equivalent of two marathons every day (40,000 kilometres in total) before returning home to Vancouver on May 22, 1987. His Man In Motion World Tour was complete. Rick and his team had not only raised awareness of the potential of people with disabilities, but they had also raised $26 million to help realize Rick’s dream of a truly accessible and inclusive world.
Soon after the Tour ended, Rick realized that his dream had yet to become a reality. The Tour had inspired people around the world to believe in their own potential. And it sparked a public dialogue that led to new policies, building codes and legislation aimed at making communities more accessible and inclusive.
While the Tour was an incredible and inspiring journey, social stereotypes were still alive. Without ongoing leadership and vision, the progress achieved would crumble. More needed to be done and Rick was not about to give up. This steadfast determination led Rick to found the Rick Hansen Foundation in 1988, where he actively continues to create awareness, change attitudes, and break down barriers so people with disabilities can reach their full potential.