With a dream, a trailer, and a passionate team behind him, Rick pushed his wheelchair out of Vancouver, B.C., on March 21, 1985, and set out on a journey that would make history; the Man In Motion World Tour.
Fueled by two big dreams to create awareness of the potential of people with disabilities and the importance of a world without barriers, and to find a cure for paralysis after spinal cord injury, Rick and his team traveled through 34 countries in 26 months, returning to Vancouver on May 22, 1987. The Tour raised $26 million and became a catalyst for enormous change in the way people with disabilities were perceived. Read more about the incredible journey in the Tour Timeline below.
Places wheeled: Vancouver, BC; Washington; Oregon; California; Arizona; New Mexico; Texas; Louisiana; Mississippi; Alabama; Florida
On March 21, 1985, the Man In Motion World Tour waved an emotional goodbye to the crowd at Oakridge Mall to begin a journey that would take Rick and his team over 40,000 km through 34 countries to raise awareness about the potential of persons with disabilities.
Spring 1985 continued...
The Tour attracts its first national media attention within minutes of its start – but not for the reason the team would have hoped. The large box nailed to the top of the motor home hit the roof of a tight exit tunnel at Oakridge, crashing down and flattening Rick’s only extra wheelchair.
Spring 1985 continued...
Throughout the US, Rick is averaging 70 miles per day (85 km) and $1 per mile in donations. At that rate, the Tour would raise a whopping $25,000. The team is disappointed. What would it take to draw public attention and support? Turns out a piece of the answer lay in Los Angeles. Inspired by Rick’s story, Canadian musician, David Foster, and English singer, John Parr, compose ‘St Elmo’s Fire’ (Man In Motion). The song goes on to become a chart-topper around the world, and the Tour got its anthem.
Spring 1985 continued...
For weeks after, Rick wheels in sweltering heat through the desert states of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Every mile gets the team closer to Florida – the final stop on phase one of the Tour. On June 24, almost 4,700 miles from the British Columbia/Washington border, the team wheels into Miami, Florida. Through sheer grit and determination, phase one of the Tour was complete.
Places wheeled: Ireland; Scotland; England; France; Belgium; Netherlands; West Germany; Denmark; Sweden; Norway; Finland; Soviet Union
Heading into London, the team realizes they’d given the police the wrong meeting place and were wheeling into the city’s core during rush hour, without an escort. Not able to find police, they had to be creative. Parking illegally in a ‘No Parking’ area in Hyde Park, the police turned up quickly, and soon the Queen’s own motorcycle escort was blocking off traffic on London Bridge at the height of rush hour to allow Rick to wheel the span of this historic bridge.
Summer 1985 continued...
On July 20, 1985 the team bids farewell to the rainy British Isles, boarded a ferry and headed to France and then on to Belgium, the Netherlands and West Germany. The weather turns warm and sunny for the first time when Rick crosses into Denmark. Waves and smiles greet the team throughout Denmark, Sweden and Norway. The team hits the 7,000-mile mark and celebrates Rick’s 28th birthday in Finland.
Summer 1985 continued...
Rick and Amanda make a brief trip to Moscow, purportedly a world leader in spinal cord research. A short visit quickly reveals that organized wheelchair sport and rehab for those with spinal cord injuries are not high on the Soviet priority list. After a quick tour of the city, Rick and Amanda head to Poland to re-unite with the team.
Places wheeled: Poland; Czech Republic; Austria; Switzerland; France; Spain; Portugal; Italy; Yugoslavia; Greece; Bahrain; Jordan
The Tour continues throughout the summer throughout Europe.
November 25, 1985, Rick and the team are granted an audience with Pope John Paul. The Pope speaks with Rick about his Tour and about sport for people with a disability, and gives Rick his blessing for a safe journey.
Fall 1985 continued...
After 30 miles of wheeling on the island of Bahrain, the team flies to Jordan. With tensions between Israel and the rest of the Middle East high, Rick heads to the Allenby Bridge, linking Jordan and Israel. While the crossing of the short bridge poses no problems, the symbolism and importance is not lost on Rick. A relatively short trip to the Middle East ends in Tel Aviv where the team prepares for its long flight to New Zealand.
Places wheeled: New Zealand, Australia
The New Year begins in Australia. Arriving in Australia, the tide turns. Rick and the team reach the halfway point in the Tour in Melbourne: 12,450 miles. For Rick, the symbolism was enormous – he knew if he could wheel half way around the world, he could finish the other half. Passing kangaroos and ostriches, the team finishes the Australian portion of the Tour in Bundaberg. Now one full year into the Tour, the team takes inventory: 63 flat tires; 4 robberies; 47 worn gloves; 7,180,800 wheelchair strokes.
Places wheeled: China; Korea; Japan
Up next, China. From the moment Rick and the team land in China, the good will and support of the people is evident.
On a hazy, overcast day in Beijing, Rick realizes a dream: wheeling up the Great Wall of China. An incredibly difficult undertaking with grades up to 60 degrees, with his team at his back, Rick slowly makes his way up 103 steps. At the top, Rick and the team are surrounded by enthusiastic supporters, media and tourists.
Spring 1986 continued...
As Rick wheels on to Tianjin en route to Shanghai, he is greeted by crowds of thousands of people yelling and throwing flowers.
Rick finishes this portion of the Tour wheeling through South Korea and Japan. The Tour had been an incredible success - its messages accepted and supported. For Rick, it is in Asia that the Tour had come alive.
Places wheeled: Florida; Georgia; South Carolina; North Carolina; Virginia; District of Columbia; Maryland; Pennsylvania; New Jersey; New York; Connecticut; Rhode Island; Massachusetts; New Hampshire; Maine; Newfoundland
In the summer of 1986, Rick and the team arrive back in North America and wheel up the East Coast into Canada.
Excitement and anticipation is building for the team’s return to Canada, after more than 17 months and 33 countries. Under sunny skies in Cape Spear, Newfoundland, Rick and the team begin their long journey home.
Places wheeled: Nova Scotia; Prince Edward Island; New Brunswick; Quebec; Ontario
On Friday October 23, Rick wheels across the bridge from Hull, Quebec into Ottawa, Ontario, and onto Parliament Hill. There, with much media fanfare, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney drops a $1 million cheque into a bucket held by Rick. National newspapers report: ‘The $1 million Drop in the Bucket’. The cheque represented needed funds, and the government’s commitment to the Tour and what it stood for.
Fall 1986 continued...
The Tour continues to roll through Ontario and St Elmo’s Fire is playing on the airwaves.
Places wheeled: Ontario; Manitoba; Saskatchewan; Alberta
A final private highlight for Rick before leaving Ontario is an emotional stop near Thunder Bay, the place where his friend Terry Fox had ended his Marathon of Hope.
Through the cold winter months, Rick wheels across the frigid Prairies, Canadians lining the snowy highways to cheer him on. Alberta Premier Don Getty promises that his government would match all donations made to the Tour in the province – that match ended up being $2.45 million.
Places wheeled: British Columbia
March 19, 1987, the Man In Motion World Tour crossed into B.C. A scant 2,000 miles stand between Rick and the team, and the finish line in Vancouver. They’re almost home.
A sea of yellow ribbons and balloons meet the team on April 2, 1987 as they wheel into Williams Lake - a hometown welcome. After a day of rest, the Tour continues through Glacier National Park, over the daunting Rogers Pass and finally on to Vancouver.
Spring 1987 continued...
On May 22, 1987, Rick and the entire MIMWT team cross the Port Mann Bridge into Vancouver. Thousands of people gather to greet Rick, lining suburban streets all the way to their final stop, the place they’d decided on over two years prior: Oakridge. An overwhelming experience, the team can barely believe what they had been able to do.
The next day, over 50,000 people gather at BC Place Stadium for a huge celebration. Rick recalls this moment: “It was a warm and wonderful celebration – a meaningful recognition of and commitment to, people with disabilities in our province and our country.”