Rick Hansen speaks to MLAs and guests at the B.C. legislature Tuesday.

Rick Hansen speaks to MLAs and guests at the B.C. legislature Tuesday.

Pay it forward, Hansen tells MLAs

Wheelchair ambassador Rick Hansen honours MLAs during visit to B.C. legislature.

Wheelchair ambassador Rick Hansen visited the B.C. legislature Monday as part of his province-wide relay marking 25 years since the completion of his Man in Motion world tour.

Hansen presented “difference maker” medals to MLAs, spoke to a reception and then was invited to make a speech to the legislature.

The medals represent gratitude, celebration and inspiration for those who have helped their communities, Hansen told MLAs, explaining what that meant to him once his 40,000-km wheelchair journey was completed.

“To be a young kid from Williams Lake and to be inspired to pay it forward,” Hansen said. “To move from a period and a place of despair and to see possibilities and know that I’ve been able to get there on the backs of this province, family friends, community. A healthy and inclusive place where a kid can overcome adversity and then be inspired to wing around the world.”

Hansen began his 25th anniversary relay in Newfoundland last summer. The relay entered B.C. on March 19 and is passing through 127 communities before concluding in downtown Vancouver on May 22.

“To come back 25 years later and to see the kind of response that still is there, and the progress that’s been made on the part of local champions and difference makers who have really made that possible, those are emotional moments and truly inspiring,” Hansen said.

Hansen began his Man in Motion World Tour in March 1985, visiting 34 countries and raising $26 million for spinal cord research. Since 1988, the Rick Hansen Foundation has leveraged that initial effort to $252 million invested in research, accessibility projects and quality-of-life initiatives.