The community of Williams Lake is overjoyed to be able to welcome Rick Hansen back to his hometown as the 2023 Williams Lake Stampede Parade honorary parade marshal.
Parade organizer Willie Dye is excited to be helping to bring Hansen back to town as part of the event.
Dye had been thinking Hansen would be an ideal candidate for the role for over a year, but wasn’t sure it would fit into the famous founder of the Rick Hansen Foundation’s schedule.
Luckily for both Dye and parade patrons, it turned out to be much simpler to get Hansen on board than he ever thought.
While Dye had reached out to Hansen’s sister, Cindy Moore, who still lives in Williams Lake as a Realtor with her husband Geordie, she pointed him at the Rick Hansen Foundation itself, as the route to making a mark on his appearance schedule.
Dye said he emailed the foundation and only four days later, an agreement was made for Rick Hansen to return to Williams Lake as the parade marshal.
When Dye made the request, he had not even realized it would be the 50th anniversary of the injury which changed the trajectory of Rick Hansen’s life.
It was June 27, 1973 when, on the way home from a fishing trip, Hansen, then 15, and his friend Don Alder were passengers in a truck involved in a collision. At the time the two were hitchhiking back in time for the Stampede. Thrown from the back of the truck, Rick Hansen injured his spinal cord and was paralyzed from the waist down.
Hansen went on to pursue an education in physical education and graduated as the first person from the University of British Columbia with a physical disability to earn this degree. He later led the Man in Motion World Tour, rolling his wheelchair around the world to prove the potential of people with disabilities.
The tour, which saw Hansen circle the globe in his wheelchair to raise awareness and money for spinal cord research, has continued to change lives ever since through his foundation. The tour itself raised $26 million for spinal cord research.
Hansen will be taking part in several events leading up to the Stampede, such as a ribbon cutting for the new accessibility lift at the curling rink Thursday, June 29 followed by the official opening of the Rick Hansen Man in Motion Exhibition at the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin.
Hansen will also, of course, be the parade marshal at the Williams Lake Stampede Parade on Saturday, July 1.