Rick Hansen

Areej Syeda

Rick Hansen-Man in Motion

"Clearly, it was an impossible dream: Hoist his broken body with its useless legs into a wheelchair, and power it around the world-24,901.55 miles- with nothing but the strength of his arms and the grit in his heart? Ridiculous. Sure, that would work. In a movie maybe. In real life? Nice idea, kid. Now what are you really going to do with the rest of your life? What Rick Hansen did was exactly what he said he was going to do, and more." - Rick Hansen: Man in Motion

Rise to Leadership

Growing up in beautiful British Columbia, Rick enjoyed playing sports in the breathtaking environment he called his playground. He was extremely passionate about sports. A true outdoorsman and an avid fisherman, he could often be found near lakes and rivers around his family's home. On June 1973, Rick and his good friend Don Alder were returning from a week-long fishing trip, riding in the back up a old pickup truck. The truck went off a steep winding road which lead to Rick and Don being thrown off out of the back. Don was lucky, and escaped the crash with a few scratches and mild wounds whereas Rick sustained a spinal cord injury and was paralyzed from the waist below. At that time, he did not know his fate- he would never walk again.

After seven months of rehabilitation in Vancouver, Rick returned home and learned to live a new lifestyle still incorporating his passions. He learned how to keep fishing and playing sports on a wheelchair with the encouragement of his family and friends. This is how Rick discovered a whole new world of sport. Rick changed his course of his future to match his situation. He set new goals for himself and began to dream new dreams.

Rick didn't let his injury make a dent in his passion for sports. It just amplified it even more. Following his injury, Rick realized how differently society treated people with disabilities – many people saw his injury before they saw him. Combining his passions, athletic ability and vision, Rick embarked on a journey that would make history. On March 21, 1985, he pushed his wheelchair out of Vancouver, BC and on to the open road which began the now world renowned Man in Motion World Tour. He was fueled by two big dreams – to make communities more accessible and inclusive to people with disabilities and to raise funds for spinal cord injury research.

That is how Rick Hansen rose to leadership, through his injury that lead to his motivation to raise awareness which then brought his fantasy to life and he began his World Tour.

Actions Rick Hansen did to show Leadership

Aside from Rick Hansen's legendary World Tour that that proved him a hero and inspired millions around the world.

He was named “Athlete of the Century” by BC Wheelchair Sports Association which proved his athletic abilities. He also won “Canada’s Disabled Athlete of the Year” in 1979 and 1982 which showed how he incorporated his dreams with his injury and how he didn't let his injury stop him from living his life to his fullest potential. In 1983, he also shared the Lou Marsh Award with Wayne Gretzky, as Canada’s Outstanding Athlete of the Year.

Rick has also been inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, the BC Sports Hall of Fame and the University of British Columbia Athletic Hall of Fame. He was put into these halls of fame because he proved himself by the way he changed peoples lives by spreading awareness about disabilities.

Furthermore, upon completion of the Man In Motion World Tour, Rick realized that his work had just begun. One of his most famous quotes is "The End is Just the Beginning", he believed that even though he inspired people through his world tour, work still needed to be done to raise awareness and help others struggling with their disabilities. He established the Rick Hansen Foundation and even today, it still remains committed to making communities more inclusive, and accelerating progress towards a cure for spinal cord injuries. Under Rick’s leadership, the Foundation has generated more than $245 million for a variety of programs and initiatives aimed at furthering Rick’s commitment to creating a truly inclusive world where healthy people can contribute in a significant way.

Leadership Traits

1) Courage is not the absence of fear - it's inspiring others to move beyond it


That's precisely what Rick learned to do: pretend, and through the act of appearing fearless, inspire others. Rick hurt, anyone who wheels across the world with a broken body in horrible conditions wold be scared, fearful, tired, stressed. Yet still, Rick held up a front, he knew he was a role model for others. So while Rick faked his courage, thousands of people who looked up to him during his Man in Motion World Tour got inspired. Inspired that if Rick could wheel around the world with a broken body and useless legs, then they could beat their own odds, beat their own injury. Just that thought would get individuals through surgeries and pain. Rick knew he was a model for others, and that gave him the courage to triumph over his own fear of disappointing his followers, fear of pain and fear of failing. Rick did not let people know about his fear, he couldn't, he faked it and made things a whole lot easier for other people who looked up to him, giving them the hope they needed to get through their own fear. It was because of him, people thought that if he could do it, then so could they. The Man in Motion World Tour was about hopes and dreams coming true, and through him, he gave others the motivation to hope and dream with the chance that theirs will come true too.

2) Appearances matter - and remember to smile

Rick always had a smile gracing his features. While wheeling from city to city, many would line up to meet the legend that he was, and that entire time, from province to province, country to country, Rick would be smiling. Through rain, wind, heat, cold, sickness, pain, laughter and tears, he would always have a satisfied face. Rick was passionate about what he was doing and he would never complain. Even while Rick was sick and in pain, Rick would not cry. He truly believed in what he was trying to accomplish. When fans would line up near big cities to congratulate him and to cheer him on his big trip, Rick would wear a dazzling, all joyous smile. Many would be surprised by the light spreading off of him and his happiness. People expected Rick to be bitter, that can happen to someone who has wheeled across the globe, but no, Rick projected the exact opposite emotion surprising hundreds.

3) Nothing is Black or White

Rick realized life was never either/or. This was proven when Rick burnt his own path when he was struck with his tragic spinal cord injury. Any normal person would've gone one of two ways if struck by the same tragedy. The first being that they would go to the hospital and tried to get cured-the most common, and the other being that they would give up and just wait for their death-this is the more rare option. Which way did Rick go? Well he invented a third option, he invented an impossible dream and somehow made it come true. Rick realized life was not black or white, he realized there were other options and that decisions are complex. So he made his own complex grey decision, that he would push his battered wheelchair around the world with the determination to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities. Somewhere along inching his way up the Great Wall of China, he reached out and grabbed the world's heart. Millions and millions were inspired by Rick burning his own path. He didn't go black or white, he went grey. It wasn't an easy grey route either, it was one of the hardest the world has ever witnessed.

Works Cited~

Hansen, Rick, and Jim Taylor. Rick Hansen: Man In Motion. 2nd ed. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1987. 228. Print.


"Why Wheel the World?" What Inspired Rick Hansen to Wheel around the World. Web. 27 Apr. 2015. <https://www.rickhansen.com/About-Us/About-Rick/Man-In-Motion-World-Tour/Why-Wheel-the-World>.


"Biography of Rick Hansen." Rickhansen.com. Web. 27 Apr. 2015. <https://www.rickhansen.com/Portals/2/Documents/RHBio_IntSec.pdf>.