Saturday, March 5, 2011

Story 29: Activism/Awareness

It's no secret that wheelchair sports enrich the lives of those who play them. It's also no secret that when people are exposed to wheelchair sports, they quickly abandon any stereotypes they might hold about people with disabilities. Our next story, however, is about people within the wheelchair sports community who have gone above and beyond to raise awareness about wheelchair sports and reduce barriers for people with disabilities. Some used wheelchair sports as a platform to build awareness. Others built a political career trying to gain equality for all types of people. But all of the people profiled today are members of the wheelchair sports community that we're proud to claim as our own.

Rick Hansen

A look back at the top 40 wheelchair sports stories in BC history wouldn't be complete without Rick Hansen. Before Rick was a Man in Motion, he was a celebrated wheelchair basketball and track athlete. He won 19 wheelchair marathons, 6 Paralympic medals and 6 national wheelchair basketball championships with the Vancouver Cablecars. In 1985, Rick set out to wheel around the world and took along his coach and mentor, Tim Frick. By the time the tour ended in 1987, he'd raised $26 million for spinal cord research. Today, the Rick Hansen Institute has raised over $200 million and Rick continues to be a strong supporter of the wheelchair sports community in BC. Rick is now celebrating the 25th anniversary of his Man in Motion tour by repeating the journey.

Terry Fox

After he lost his leg to cancer at age 18, Terry Fox was introduced to wheelchair sports by Rick Hansen. Like Rick, Terry was also trained by Tim Frick and gained the physical stamina necessary for his Marathon of Hope by participating in wheelchair sports. On April 12th, 1980, Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope started in St. John's, Newfoundland. While the event did not originally garner much media attention, momentum picked up and soon Terry Fox was a household name. Sadly, after 143 days and over 5,000 kilometers, Terry was forced to stop after the cancer spread to his lungs. He passed away on June 28, 1981 at age 22.

Sam Sullivan

Before he was the mayor of Vancouver, Sam Sullivan was a board member for BC Wheelchair Sports. He also played wheelchair rugby and dabbled in other wheelchair sports. In addition to his work with BC Wheelchair Sports, he also founded six non-profits designed to help people with disabilities. In 1993, Sam became a Vancouver city councillor and served for 15 years with the Non-Partisan Alliance (NPA). In 2005, he was elected to be mayor of Vancouver, where he used his position to advocate on behalf of people with disabilities as well as campaign for improved conditions for people with drug addictions. Today, Sam is interested in reducing the ecological impact of the city of Vancouver in order to make life better for Vancouver's citizens.

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