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THIS DAY IN VANCOUVER: March 21st

March 21, 2014 | by  |  This Day In Vancouver

1984:

In front of a crowd of supporters (including Rolland and Betty Fox), and with an inventory that includes one custombuilt wheelchair, one spare frame, a motorhome, an escort van, 80 pairs of deerskin curling gloves, and 15 bottles of Shur-Grip, Paralympian Rick Hansen launches his international Man in Motion tour at Oakridge Centre.

“Although dark clouds briefly threatened to dampen things,” the Vancouver Province reports, “the 27-year-old wheelchair athlete started his 18-month tour on time at 9 a.m. to the cheers of 300 spectators.”

“This is very special to us and we hope it’s special to you,” Hansen tells the crowd. “Thank you all.”

Hansen, who lost the use of his legs following a car accident when he was 15 years old, has spent much of the previous year training, organizing, and fundraising for the 24,900-mile marathon, which is intended to take him across more than 100 major cities in 34 countries, on five continents, with the goal of raising $10 million for spinal cord research. Though prominent sponsors include McDonald’s, Nike, and Expo 86, the Man in Motion tour has been in a state of financial desperation for almost a year. Soliciting money from a donated office in the Guinness Tower and using office supplies pilfered from the Jim Pattison Group several floors below, Hansen’s core group of volunteers are still woefully short of their targets, with only $90,000 of the $750,000 for operational expenses they’d hoped to raise.

“School kids sold oranges and washed cars to raise a few bucks for the fund,” writes the Sun’s Jim Taylor in a column unfortunately titled “Jockwatch.” “Prime Minister Brian Mulroney sent a congratulatory telegram—thus far in lieu of cheque. But the people were there. Hundreds of them, picking up the fund-raising appeal carried yesterday morning on virtually every radio station and
re-routing to Oakridge to be briefly a part of something they sensed could be great.”

Though the marathon gets off to a less-than-perfect start (the motorhome containing the five-person support crew will be in an accident before it’s even left the Oakridge parking lot), and despite
some early hardships (notably bad weather and a dead alternator), Hansen and his crew will successfully reach Bellingham on his first day. The Man in Motion tour will go on to become more successful than anyone had imagined, ultimately raising $26 million for spinal cord research.

The tour crew will also, by Hansen’s estimation, be involved in an impressive 553 accidents.

IMAGE: Rick Hansen, greeting some admirers in Washington State, circa 1984. Image Courtesy of rickhansen.com

Jesse Donaldson is a journalist and historian whose work has appeared in VICE, The Tyee, subTerrain, and SadMag. If you think THIS is neat, an expanded "This Day In Vancouver", is now available in book form, in bookstores everywhere, and online at Anvil Press.

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