Supporters of the annual Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion walk are hoping to make a significant difference in the lives of those suffering from spinal cord injury.
As a precursor to the event, which will be happening June 11, organizers set up a kick-off event at Tom Davies Square May 11 to showcase the support the walk has garnered over the past several years by community members and sponsors alike.
An acclaimed athlete, Hansen was involved in a life altering car crash that left him a Paraplegic in 1973. He is best known for travelling more than 40,000 kilometres across the world between 1985-87 in support of spinal cord research.
He raised more than $26 million over the course of his journey to improve the quality of life for those with spinal cord injuries.
“The Wheels in Motion events are about fundraising, but it’s more important to get awareness (about spinal cord injury) out there,” said Ken Lingenfelder, business developer and fundraising coordinator for the Independent Living Resource Centre.
Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion events have raised more than $3.6 million since its inception in 2003. Funds raised by the events support a number of initiatives for those with spinal cord and related injuries in Canada, including education and skill development, research, funding for assistive devices and accessibility.
“Last year we managed to raise about $6,500 in our community, and this year, we’d like to get more,” said Earl Black, co-chair of Sudbury’s Wheels in Motion event, and ambassador for the Man in Motion Foundation. “I think the key is to get our message out to as many people as possible, to get people involved. The success of the walk depends on the commitment of the people behind it.”
Black, a quadriplegic, is also a strong supporter of stem cell research.
“I think if people realized the potential of what research on stem cells can do, we’d see a much larger push for support on the issue. I think the people who oppose stem cell research don’t realize the difficulties we have just to be members of society. Would you change your mind if you were confined, if this was your life.”
The Rick Hansen Man in Motion Foundation has made a sizeable financial impact for spinal cord injury programs and initiatives in Canada, having raised over $178 million to date.
There are currently over 43,000 Canadians living with a spinal cord injury in Canada. On average, 1,100 Canadians will suffer a spinal cord injury every year.
“We’re out there to keep Rick Hansen’s dream alive,” Black said. “That’s the dream to see a wheelchair in a museum someday. To see it as a part of our history, and not a part of our future.”
“We’re always looking for volunteers,” said Lingenfelder. “We’re looking for support from children, seniors, able bodied and the disabled, anybody. It’s a completely inclusive event.”
The Wheels in Motion walk will take place June 11. The two-mile walk will begin at Science North, and end at Market Square.
For more information, or to sign up for the event, contact the Independent Living Resource Centre at (705) 675-2121, or visit www.rickhansen.com.
BY COLE RIVARD
for northern life