Humble, persevering and gracious to the end, Rick Hansen holds back at the finish line of Thermal Drive to let 18-year-old paraplegic Tyrone Henry wheel his way through the yellow ribbon that marked the conclusion of the grueling climb.
Today marked a milestone as Hansen, accompanied by hundreds of students, media, well-wishers and medal bearers climbed Thermal Drive that runs through Port Moody and Coquitlam. He finished the climb in about half an hour and, at approximately 11 a.m., wheeled on to a stage set up by the Rick Hansen Relay team earlier this morning.
For Hansen, celebrating the accomplishments of youth was one of the key reasons he decided to return to Thermal Drive, the hill that nearly vanquished his original Man in Motion tour 25 years ago.
Canada's youth are "tough, capable smart and caring and making a difference," Hansen told an adoring crowd of mostly middle-school students who crowded the stage and offered their congratulations to the 54-year-old spinal chord research advocate.
In a media scrum, Hansen told reporters that he had to mentally prepare for the Thermal Drive climb this morning. "It's a deceiving hill," he said, and as he approach each new hill in the 1.9 km climb he had to push himself to roll on.
"You see the next one and 'oh no,'" he said, but he drew on the support of approximately 1,600 students who followed him up the hill.
Acknowledging his sponsors, including McDonalds, the government of B.C., and Canada, represented locally, by Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam MP James Moore, Hansen told the crowd that the climb up Thermal Drive was not about him but about the many "difference makers" who are making the world a better place.
To the media, Hansen said climbing up Thermal Drive has become a symbol of hope of what can be accomplished to create a "healthy and inclusive world" and said he would be back again, maybe even in another 25 years.