Hansen relay wheels through region

The City of Vernon has been recognized for its wheelchair accessibility from an organization who knows something about the topic.

The Rick Hansen 25-year Man in Motion World tour anniversary wheeled into Vernon Sunday with a special ceremony at Polson Park.

Among the highlights was the Hansen organization presenting Vernon Mayor Rob Sawatzky with a medal for the city’s commitment to making its amenities accessible for all residents.

“They (Hansen crew) visited a few places in town and were very happy to see how wheelchair accessible things are,” said Courtenay Pitcher, City of Vernon communications officer.



While Rick Hansen himself wasn’t part of the North Okanagan portion of the tour, a crowd of 200 to 400 people gathered despite chilly weather conditions.

Vernon Paralympians Sonja Gaudet and Josh Dueck had some of their adaptive equipment on hand for residents to look at.

Dueck and Gaudet were piped in to the medal bearer ceremony by the Kalamalka Highlanders Pipe Band, and accompanied by RCMP in their traditional red serge.

“That was one of the most inspirational parts of the afternoon,” said Pitcher.

Prior to arriving at Polson Park, the relay rolled through Okanagan Indian Band territory where elder Patsy Gregoire waited to welcome participants as a personal tribute to her younger brother, a man who was in an accident and spent “a good 20 years” in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic before passing away.

“To be able to have these people who are so busy and travelling all the time to make a little stop here and make the community aware of it, I think it’s wonderful for them to do that,” said Gregoire.

“For the elders of the community I think it’s great because we know that there are people out there that can be examples for our youth.”

The relay continued Tuesday morning in Vernon with provincial Lt.-Gov., the Honourable Steven L. Point among those running in Vernon as the event headed north.

Spallumcheen hosted a six-minute celebration outside township chambers, while the City of Armstrong had the relay leave Pleasant Valley Secondary School for a run through the city to McDonald’s. Hundreds of students and residents lined the streets to cheer on the relay.

Displaying a sign reading: “Rick is my hero,” Grade 3 Armstrong Elementary student Ashlen Vigue said Hansen is an inspiration.

“We read a book about him and he is really cool.”

From Armstrong, the relay continued north to Enderby for an end of day celebration featuring games, activities and live entertainment.

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