Cecilia Hynes remembers exactly where she was on May 22nd, 1987.
She had squeezed her way to the front of the packed crowd at Cambie and 10th in Vancouver, BC to cheer Rick Hansen on as he wheeled to the nearby finish line at Oakridge Mall on the final day of the Man In Motion World Tour.
“I saw him and it was just so fabulous!” Cecilia recalled. “Here you are, standing in your city – my city, where my heart is – watching Rick come up the hill and it’s just amazing to see how strong he is!”
Cecilia, who was born and raised in Vancouver, was 28 years old in 1987. She just happened to be off work, and with her daughter in kindergarten, had some spare time to witness history in action.
“I thought, “Well, he’s coming by and I am going to make sure I am there.’ So, I just walked up the street and there were already people there to welcome him. Since I’m short, I always seem to be able to get in the front row just because people can see over me anyways. I think because I grew up with seven brothers and sisters, you figure out ways of getting what you need without being too pushy!”
A Hero in the Making
Cecilia and her family tracked Rick’s journey around the world, tuning into evening television reports and reading newspaper articles at every opportunity. Cecilia’s mother, especially, spoke about people she felt were making a difference in the world. “We didn’t have the internet then so you had to make the effort to keep track of what people were doing,” Cecilia added.
Interest in Rick and the Tour reached a crescendo that never died down when Rick wheeled the Great Wall of China. Canadian media took notice of the Tour along with Hansen’s incredible resilience as he doggedly perused his goal of raising awareness of spinal cord injuries and to show that people with disabilities were capable of great accomplishments. Media flew to China to cover the Tour in person. Word spread. Readers and TV viewers, like Cecilia and her family, were awestruck by this man they now considered a Canadian hero.
She remembered the crowd being ecstatic. Since it was a time before the camera phone Cecilia didn’t take photographs of her own. There was however, a camera trained on the huge crowd at Cambie and 10th. This photograph was featured on the last page of Vancity Credit Union’s financial report published months later. In the smiling and clapping crowd standing in front of what was then the bank’s head office, was Cecilia with her blonde hair feathered around her face, wearing an acid wash jean jacket and turquoise pants. In the foreground: a beaming Rick in his blue racing top wheeling to the finish line.
“I never got rid of the report of course because it had a picture of me and Rick Hansen,” she said. “And I wish I still had that jacket. My son would love it. That was a good time in life.”
They Lined the Streets
Evidently, others thought so too. Cecilia recently posted the photograph in a Facebook group called Nostalgic/Sentimental Vancouver. More than 600 people liked the photo with many offering their own memories. “I was at QE Park watching him come down Cambie Street!” wrote Greg Acheson. “Wow I touched his hand as he passed through Nisku, Alberta,” wrote Cathrine Long.
Joel Wright, then a student at Churchill secondary school, remembered lining up at Oak and 57th with his class. “The school raised a bunch of money for the Man In Motion. I remember the kid who got selected to give Rick the money was too slow and Rick just whizzed by him, so he booked it and started chasing Rick down Oak Street trying to give him the money.”
Wrote Cori Thompson: “Wow! That’s fabulous!!! I was at King Ed & Cambie!!! I was soooo moved by it that I quit smoking that day! I thought of Rick could do that, I could certainly give up smoking!!!”
Cecilia wasn’t surprised by how much the photograph resonated with people. She pointed out that Vancouver was a much smaller place in the 1980s than it is now, and so many people shared the same experiences.
“The comments are just beautiful,” she said. “Because he’s still so loved, you know.”