Project Management Institute

Man in Motion world tour



West Coast, BC PMI Chapter Project of the Year Award - 1987

Edith L. Ehlers and Simon Cumming, Team Members, Rick Hansen Man in Motion Society

“It is my dream that all disabled persons will have an opportunity to reach their full potential “

Rick Hansen

Editor's Note: This is a different type of project…focusing on the role of a “vision” and “inspiration.” Rick Hansen had a dream…a vision. He was inspired by Terry Fox and in turn inspired his project team and thousands of persons, disabled and non-disabled alike.

Vision and inspiration are probably greater contributors to project success than is generally recognized. It is the vision and inspiration that the project sponsor can bring to the project. It is the job of the project manager to interpret that inspiration to the entire project team and facilitate the realization of that vision. To gain full appreciation of this project, it is necessary to read the entire book, Rick Hansen: Man in Motion.

Our thanks to the Man in Motion organization for their permission and assistance in preparing this Showcase Project.

Rick Hansen as he scaled the Great Wall of China

Rick Hansen as he scaled the Great Wall of China

Photo courtesy of Forrest M. Anderson

In Pursuit Of A Dream


Rick Hansen, became a “Man in Motion” after a car accident at 15 which changed him from an active, athletic teen into a paraplegic. Rick had tremendous doubts about his future. “I thought my life was over. I thought I'd spend the rest of my life in a hospital being taken care of by nurses …”. Rick has come a long way since those days …and now, at the age of 29, he has given a very special message to able and disabled people around the world.

Rick Hansen wheeled around the world, a total of 24,901 miles (40,073 km), to make everyone aware of the capabilities of disabled people, to raise funds for spinal cord research, rehabilitation and wheelchair sport, and to show the benefit of sport as a form of rehabilitation. “I believe that one day the wheelchair will be a thing of the past,” says Rick. “I think that we will find the key to repair spinal cord injuries and disorders.” As for the rehabilitation, Rick wants people with spinal cord problems to take heart from what he learned. “It was just a matter of understanding that life could still go on, that it was not the end of the world … and that I could still pursue what is in my heart.” Rick left Vancouver, B.C., in March 1985 and after traveling miles through the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, New Zealand, Australia and the Far East, Rick returned to North America in the early summer of 1986 to make the homeward wheel from Miami to Maine and across Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia. Rick wheeled through 34 countries on a two year trek, arriving home in Vancouver, B.C. in May 1987.

In every country he visited, Rick was met with a warm welcome and a tremendous response, helping handicapped groups in each country raise funds for their programs, creating a worldwide awareness for the able-bodied and encouragement for the disabled.

At the same time, Rick's phenomenal journey raised a legacy of 20 million dollars. The Man in Motion Legacy Fund, through an Advisory Panel of Canada's finest researchers and under the watchful eye of Rick Hansen and the Man in Motion Society, disburses interest annually to Spinal Cord research, rehabilitative research, wheelchair sports and awareness programs.

Rick Hansen is now an internationally recognized celebrity. He has been honored with the Companion Order of Canada; completed a year in Brisbane, Australia representing Canada as Commissioner General at the World Expo ‘88, and is currently a special consultant to the President's office at the University of British Columbia in regard to bettering programs and services for persons with disabilities on campus.

Rick is a graduate of the University of British Columbia with a degree in physical education (1984) and is a World Class Marathon Wheeler. Rick Hansen resides in Vancouver, with his wife Amanda, where he continues to volunteer time to the Man in Motion Society. In addition to the many honors bestowed upon Rick, the professional achievements, and community contributions, he has remained a strong competitor and contributor to sports as attested to by his athletic accomplishments.


This slogan made a good motto for the Vancouver Headquarters. Our staff had to believe totally in Rick and his goals, and we certainly had to persevere.

A quick history will explain how the project started. Rick was a world class competitive wheelchair marathon athlete attending the University of British Columbia in physical education.

Terry Fox had been a close friend of Rick's, and it was through Terry's association that Rick's dream began. In the fall of 1984, Rick publicly began looking for a way to get his dream on the road, and that is where the Man in Motion Project started.

Rick's dream was twofold. First, to wheel 24,901 miles around the world to raise the awareness of the potential of the disabled and the barriers they face daily. Secondly, he desired to establish a spinal cord injury research fund.

Rick began by soliciting support from local paraplegic associations for support. He enlisted a small group of patrons for seed money and office space. Everest and Jennings pledged wheelchair parts and maintenance, Imperial Petroleum donated oil and gas for the van, and McDonald's believed in the project and pledged support by providing hamburgers around the world.

Slowly, other sponsors became interested. Local Vancouverites who knew Rick rallied and formed the Man in Motion Board of Directors. The British Columbia Paraplegic Foundation and the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame and Museum encouraged the support of the provincial government which donated $10,000 in mailing and printing costs, as well as a five person project work grant for eight months. The Telephone Pioneers of America began plotting Rick's route three days in advance. Special Vancouver Expo ‘86 license plates were attached to the van. In March 1986, even though we were sure we weren't ready, Rick was on the road.



Track Medals

1984 Games of the XXIII Olympiad, Los Angeles Finalist, 1500 Meter Wheelchair Exhibition

1984 VII World Wheelchair Games, Stoke Mandeville, England --- 1 gold --- 1 silver

1982 Pan American Games, Halifax, Nova Scotia --- 9 gold medals

General Fitness

Currently participating in wheelchair basketball, tennis and a weight training program

Contributions To Sport

Encouraging the inclusion of disabled athletes in the Olympic and Commonwealth Games Through the Man in Motion Legacy Fund created by the World Tour, allocated $400,000 for development of wheelchair sports in Canada in 1988


Rick Motivates Team

Simon Cumming: “Rick remained so focused in his goal and aspirations, and went through such physical and mental pain without complaint - except when we beat him in cribbage - that any mental or physical turmoil I might have been going through would pale in comparison.”


Terry Fox Inspires Rick

A few of the team take time out of their schedule to pose while in Maine. L to R : Don Alder, Nancy Thompson, Rick Hansen, Amanda Reid, Mike Reid.

Rico Bondi: The energy Rick generated every time he entered a room was simply awesome. Every smiling face or tear-filled eye understood his message. Rick never put himself ahead of his goals, and it was this sincerity and devotion that motivated all of us.

Muriel Honey: In an increasingly busy and crowded world, it is very easy to see oneself as nothing more significant than a grain of sand on a beach. Rick Hansen showed me, and millions of other people across Canada and around the world, that one person can make a difference, and that each of us can have an effect on the lives of people we meet.

In 1980, Terry Fox came along with his Marathon of Hope. He was going to run across Canada to focus attention on the horrors of cancer and to raise funds for cancer research. He wanted nothing for himself. He'd had cancer, it had taken his leg, and now he was going to fight back. That's what it was: a personal fight between one young man and this terrible thing that had attacked him. He would battle it one-on-one. He would show people it could be beaten, and in the course of the battle, he would raise funds and inspire other people so that they would someday stamp it out for good.

I've heard and seen it written that cancer beat him. Not true. It only beat his body. It returned and raged through him this time, forcing a halt to his marathon after five months and finally taking his life. But it didn't win. In life and in death, Terry did what he'd set out to do: he rallied Canadians to a common cause as never before. The money poured in and is still pouring in, because every year, in memorial walks and other fund raisers, people remember the fighter who wouldn't quit.[1]

Edith Ehlers: “When Rick was leaving Vancouver, I thought he was chasing a pie-in-the-sky dream. As his tour vehicle knocked off the spare wheelchair on a low overpass leaving the send-off celebration, I knew it couldn't be done, but my pessimism soon changed to pride as Rick and his crew persevered.


Rick and Andrew Wigglesworth, of Squamuh, B.C., who lost his leg to a tumor.

“At 72, I contracted a debilitating disease and became depressed and felt useless,” wrote Clara Nixon 78 from Gibsons. “Rick showed me anything is possible if you set your mind to it.

From North Vancouver, Gavin Bamber, who was born with no arms, described Hansen as an “inspiration to all disabled people such as myself. He showed the world about us. Bless him,” Bamber, 25, wrote.

Rick Encourages Disabled

Four-year old Robin Nolius hated his wheelchair and shunned strangers.

But one day the young victim of spina bifada caught a glimpse of Rick Hansen on a television newscast and a remarkable transformation began to take place.

“It was an amazing change,” said Robin's mother, Debbie Nolius. “Before he used to hide, now he's actually quite proud of himself.”

Jessica Cowley, an 11-year old living in Vancouver, wrote in her neat, grade 6 handwriting how proud she is of Hansen. “He is an honest and hard-working man, and I am proud of him.”


The Management Challenge


A hand-to-mouth existence sustained us for the first year of the tour. British Columbia donations and fundraisers, initiated by those who personally knew Rick, brought in desperately needed dollars. Corporate sponsors had the courage to donate goods and services, and we survived. It was easier to obtain accommodations, gas, airfares, wheelchair parts, etc., than to find “cash.” We limped along.

The tour became Rick himself…not a “slick management machine in Vancouver,” as once reported by a newspaper. Rick kept in constant touch with the Vancouver Headquarters as our absentee boss. We turned to our Board and then to Rick for final approval on all momentous decisions. Teamwork and focus were the keys. Our staff met weekly to update each other and discuss the coming week. We looked to outside expertise rather than hiring professionals. Vancouver supported all requests for advice and assistance in specific areas of need.

Our greatest problem was that we found it difficult to imagine Rick's problems on the road, while Rick and the crew found it difficult to relate to our problems.

Then came one of the most difficult decisions our headquarters had to make. Rick had been wheeling for almost a year, and although the awareness Rick had hoped to create was very successful, the trust fund was non-existent. It took every dollar we could scrape together to keep the tour and headquarters functioning.

The decision we faced was to professionally market the tour…or just to continue to “let it happen.”

After much soul-searching, we recommended that as Rick's goals were clearcut and simple, and Rick's personality and perseverance the key, only Rick could carry us through. The Man in Motion organization took a deep breath, cut back on professional marketing plans and reverted to the low key volunteer approach. We held our breath as Rick and his crew approached Canada.

In preparation for Rick's arrival we had:

  • Established volunteer Provincial coordinators and committees
  • Printed sponsorship packages
  • Developed fundraising ideas
  • Established guidelines
  • Prepared explicit banking instructions
  • Developed a school information kit for elementary schools across Canada


So there we were in August 1986. Rick was arriving in Newfoundland and we had $172,000 in the bank. We had spent close to $1 million over a two year period to keep the tour moving and the headquarters functioning on as tight a budget as possible. We prayed that Canada would rally behind Rick.

…we found it difficult to imagine Rick's problems on the road, while Rick and the crew found it difficult to relate to our problems.

The B.C. Cancer Society warned us of the hundreds of dollars handed to the Fox and Fonyo Runs Across Canada and of the nightmare of huge green garbage bags of money being thrust at them. We thought that we were ready. We had the Royal Bank on our side accepting any donations across Canada and a home based computerized tax receipt system waiting to go.

We waited.

During the first six hours Rick was in Canada, we had an emergency call that - you guessed it - money was being thrust at our crew in green garbage bags! That was the first sign of success for the anxious controller!

A hasty call to the St. Johns Royal Bank manager implemented a system that sustained us across Canada. Daily the bank manager or representative in the area would drive out to meet the tour and collect and deposit the funds. Through the banks and service groups, we used this system until we reached British Columbia.

As Rick entered British Columbia, the Royal Bank gave us a full-time employee, Dan Northam, and a vehicle to travel with the team. Now we thought for sure we had all systems covered. But on May 22nd when Rick wheeled into Oakridge, Vancouver, the response across Canada was so overwhelming that for the first time in history the entire Vancouver Royal Bank computer system went down, and it took some scrambling to open a secondary “Hansen” line to accept donations as they poured into the Vancouver Centre.


By the time the dust settled, we had raised an astonishing $20,000,000 Trust Fund over a 10 month period. Our administrative costs for the tour and headquarters were now below 7 cents on the dollar.

The tour is over. Now Man in Motion Headquarters consists of an office assistant. Rick Hansen volunteers his time, and with a downsized Board of Directors we continue to monitor the trust fund and the phasing out of the many details of the Man in Motion Tour. The interest on the Trust Fund is disbursed annually following a May meeting of the Advisory Panel in Vancouver. The first year the interest was $1,800,000, from which $800,000 went directly to spinal cord injury research; $240,000 was allocated to the National Canadian Paraplegic Association; $400,000 to the development nationally of wheelchair sports (rehabilitative and competitive); and $160,000 to ongoing educational awareness programs. The $20 million fund will remain in perpetuity and continue to foster, through the annual interest, Rick's dreams of awareness, research on spinal cord injuries, rehabilitation, and wheelchair sports.

We are often asked why the tour was so successful. There were three major reasons. (Con't pg. 16)

On March 21, 1985, Rick Hansen embarked on his Man in Motion World tour to raise awareness and money for spinal cord research. Here are the highlights of that historic 40,000 kilometer journey.


1. The sun breaks through the clouds as Hansen wheels out of Oakridge auditorium in Vancouver, with about 300 well-wishers on hand. He reaches Bellingham, Wash, that day.

2. On April 20, Hansen leaves Santa Monica, Calif, after two days of wheelchair repairs. In the first month on the road, Hansen averages an amazing 110 km a day but not without injuries to the tendons of his fingers. “Those first two weeks were as hard as I could have imagined them,” Hansen said after physiotherapist Amanda Reid joined the tour.

3. June 25 he arrives in Miami with the tour so far raising $325,000, most of it from B.C.

4. On July 6, Hansen wheels toward Northern Ireland from Dublin.

5. Fatigue and flu disrupt Hansen's visit to the French countryside after he arrives in Paris, July 22. He has now wheeled 8,428 km and still plans to reach Vancouver for Expo ’86.

6. On Aug. 26, Hansen celebrates his 28th birthday in Tampere, Finland. One-quarter of the tour is completed.

7. The tour is barred from East Germany on Aug. 31. The Soviet Union relents on its one-day visa and allows a three-day stay.

8. He flies to Poland where people shower the Hansen van with flowers during his eight-day visit starting Sept. 13.

9. Oct. 1, Hansen conquers the 700 meter St. Anton pass in the Alps. Facing 12-percent grades and fierce shoulder pains, he pulls himself up meter by meter. Within a week, he reaches the one-third point in his trip.

10. On Nov. 27, Hansen shakes hands with Pope John Paul in the Vatican.

11. The last leg of his European segment ends in Athens, Dec. 8. Hansen will not make it to Expo ’86.

12. A week in the Middle East ends with a kibbutz celebration in Tel Aviv, Dec. 13, and a memorial ceremony for Terry Fox in Jerusalem.

13. Christmas Day, 1985 is Auckland, New Zealand. Hansen is about 2,000 km short of the halfway point.



14. On Jan. 3, more than $3,000 worth of customized clothing and equipment is stolen from Hansen's hotel room in Auckland.

15. In Melbourne, Australia, 20,036 km away from his home, Hansen reaches the halfway point in his journey on Feb. 10.

16. Hansen rolls into Sydney, March 3. Physiotherapist Reid says that she has a pain scale for Hansen that goes from zero to 10. “If the pain gets to 10, we stop. Most days he operates around eight or nine.”

17. Hansen becomes a hero in China after scaling the Great Wall on April 13. After 20 days wheeling more than 1,000 km in China, Hansen reaches Shanghai on May 3. Two days later, he reaches South Korea.

18. On the eve of starting a 1,600 km tour of Japan on May 14, Hansen admits he is physically tired after nearly a month of solid wheeling in China. But the support of both Prince Mikasa and Prince Takamado - cousins of Crown Prince Akihito, son of Emperor Hirohito - has spurred him to continue the arduous pace.

19. A month and a day later, Hansen returns to Miami for the start of his journey up the Eastern Seaboard. He has wheeled through 33 countries so far and traveled 22,800 km. He has more than 17,000 km to go.

20. Hansen celebrates Canada Day in sunny Jacksonville, Fla. as the tour already starts planning for its winter assault of the Prairies. A four-wheel-drive wheelchair plus a special insulating suit have been developed for the upcoming winter.

21. The 500th day on the road, Aug. 2, is spent in Philadelphia. Two days later, Hansen arrives in New York for an appearance on the Today Show with its audience of 40 million. Before tour's end, he will have appeared in the pages of countless newspapers and magazines, including People and Maclean's, and in the grooves of the hit song, St. Elmo's Fire.

22. On Sunday, Aug. 24, Hansen arrives back in Canada and lands in St. John's Nfld. In two days, Hansen celebrates his 29th birthday, his second one on the road.

23. About 10,000 residents of North Sydney, N.S. greet Hansen on Sept. 10 as he wheels off the ferry from Newfoundland. The east coast province has donated $25,000 to the Man in Motion tour. The bank balance was $178,000.

24. In the sleepy New Brunswick town of Shediac on Sept. 29, Hansen proposes to Reid. “It's something you could write a storybook about,” says Hansen. The two announce they will be married in October 1987.

25. Wheelchair athlete Andre Viger greets Hansen as he enters Quebec on Oct. 9. Unlike Terry Fox's visit in 1980, Quebecois are organized and prepared to greet Hansen.

26. Thousands of Torontonians welcome Hansen on Nov. 2 as he wheels to a reception at city hall. Five days later, the Ontario legislature honors the wheelchair athlete by renaming Stalin Township, a wilderness area in the northeastern corner of Georgian Bay, Hansen Township.

27. After 83 km of pelting snow and freezing rain, Hansen reaches the tiny community of Eagle, Ont. on Nov. 20. It is the first real bout with snow and icy conditions. Hansen continues to test his four-wheel-drive wheelchair by wheeling it 11 km a day.

28. As Christmas 1986 approaches, Hansen is declared Canadian newsmaker of the year. B.C. starts to plan for his return as Hansen continues to wheel through the bitter cold of northern Ontario. When Hansen contracts a bladder infection, it forces the tour to spend six days, and Dec. 25, in Wawa.


29. With the arrival of 1987, the Legacy Fund reaches $5 million. On Sunday, Jan. 4, Hansen pays tribute to Terry Fox in Thunder Bay where cancer forced the one-legged runner to end his cross-Canada run on Sept. 1, 1980.

30. On Jan. 18, Hansen arrives in Winnipeg where cold weather and the flu will delay the tour one week.

31. With the Legacy Fund now at $5.8 million, Hansen arrives in Regina under sunny skies. He acknowledges that while finding a cure for spinal cord injuries is the goal, the Legacy Fund should be used to improve the quality of life of those in wheelchairs.

32. On Feb. 13, Hansen is one day away from the Alberta border. Although he passed through some wintry weather in northern Ontario, Hansen's journey across the Prairies has been everything his scouts said it wouldn't be. Warm, Vancouver-like conditions meant Hansen had little use for his specially designed winter gear.

33. Hansen arrives back in B.C. on March 20, almost two years to the day since he set out on his global marathon. He crosses into the province along the Yellowhead Highway and heads for Williams Lake, his home town.

34. The Rogers Pass, one of the first of three major challenges in B.C., is history by 1:30 pm on April 17. The Rossland-Trial climb and the Hope-Princeton highway lie ahead, but Hansen feels that the psychological boost of conquering Rogers Pass will propel him to Vancouver.

35. May 22: After more than 40,000 km and two years on the road, the end of the Man in Motion Tour occurs at Oakridge Center, Vancouver, B.C.

One is that the tour meant something to most people relating to life in general. Anyone chasing dreams, setting goals, or dealing with adversity could relate. Many people deal with setbacks as devastating as a personal disability, and they took heart in Rick's words that “it is what a person can do that is important, not what they can't do.”

The second reason was Rick and his road crew. Their sincerity and dedication were outstanding and their teamwork remarkable.

Thirdly, the wonderful, generous, Canadians and their ability to rise to a challenge and support a sincere cause such as Rick's. There are hundreds of people around the world who donated their time and money to Rick's dream. To all who supported us with your time, your heart and your pocketbook, Thank You. It could not have been done without you.



The Man in Motion Tour, because of the unique nature of such a colossal undertaking, was a difficult project to plan and manage from the “on-road” perspective. Changes in tour management occurred not necessarily due to predetermined plans of action but, more often, were the result of “ad-hoc,” spontaneous decisions by Rick and the tour group (with direction from head office in Vancouver). Thus, the tour that left Vancouver in March 1985 was a very different animal from the one that returned to the West Coast in May 1987, over two years later. Since no one had ever previously attempted a feat matching the Man in Motion Tour, there were no manuals or “how-to” books to aid the tour group in the day-to-day management of the trip.


Legacy Fund Donations

As of February 18, 1988

By Area:

British Columbia*.......$12,446,000.00






New Brunswick..............275,000.00

Nova Scotia....................455,000.00

Prince Edward Isl...............73,000.00



Yukon .................................7,000.00

Federal Government ....1,000,000.00

Outside Canada................28,000.00


*British Columbia Government matching (included above)

.................. $5,526,894.00

Some of the interesting management aspects of this tour include: scheduling, logistics, fundraising and personnel.


All schedule concerns were secondary to Rick's overall health and well-being. Throughout the tour, the number one goal was to not overtax Rick's physical and mental capacities.

The tour functioned on a three day on, one day off schedule. The “off” day was ostensibly a rest day; but as the tour progressed, it was used more for special events and media access. This was the case throughout Canada especially.

Originally, the average wheeling day covered 80 miles. Halfway through the tour, however (in New Zealand) Rick and the tour group decided that the foremost goal of the tour - raising public awareness as to the abilities and potential of the disabled - was being sacrificed in order to “put the miles in.”

As a result, the daily mileage was reduced to 50, enabling Rick to lessen his daily road time by up to 4 hours but adding six months to the anticipated duration of the trip.

The wheeling day itself was divided into four work slots. One two-hour morning wheel, followed by a one-hour break; another two-hour wheel; a two-hour lunch break; another two-hour wheel; an afternoon one-hour break; and a final two-hour wheel.

Communities on Rick's wheeling route were given at least one week's notice as to the tour's approximate arrival time, plus or minus two hours. Flexibility was the key to such a system of advance notice, since any one of a number of variables could throw the schedule off.


In simplified terms, the three major logistical concerns of the tour were:

  1. 1) A detailed route reconnaisance (or “route recce’”)
  2. 2) Official government/police clearance for road usage
  3. 3) Accommodations

Route reconnaissance was obtained by having a tour member drive the route prior to Rick's arrival in the area (in some cases up to 14 months prior). A detailed account of the route (i.e. bends in the road, hills, major landmarks) was recorded on cassette tapes and the tape sent back to the head office to be transcribed onto a computer printout.

Route clearance and police escorts were coordinated through Canadian consular offices and embassies while the tour was in foreign countries (especially non-English speaking nations). In English areas, volunteer organizations (such as Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs, the Kinsmen in Canada, and the Telephone Pioneers of America in both Canada and the United States) proved invaluable in securing both safe routes and accommodations.


Prior to the tour's arrival in Canada, fundraising was a very low priority, and for two reasons:

1) All available human resources were involved in getting Rick safely home. There was no time to actively seek funds.

2) The necessary high profile media image that all successful fundraising campaigns garner did not materialize for Man in Motion until its return to Canada.

Upon returning to Canada, however, the tour group immediately realized that funds would be arriving on a daily basis and in great amounts. The Canadian trust fund, which originally stood at $178,000.00 when the tour arrived in St. John's Newfoundland, more than doubled on the first two wheeling days in Newfoundland, a province that at that time had a 13.5% unemployment rate.

An “on-tour” fund management system was quickly devised, whereby each province provided a volunteer who would travel with the tour, collect and count donated funds, and deposit all receipts at the end of the day.


Lack of resources (both human and financial) forced the three man road crew that left Vancouver in March 1985 to perform a myriad of duties that often overlapped.

Upon the return to Canada, however, increased public profile and the resultant work overload forced tour organizers to do two things: finely tune job descriptions and add more staff to the road crew.

At its peak, through the Canadian winter months (Sept. ‘86 - March ‘87), the road crew consisted of nine members:

Rick Hansen

Amanda Reid - physiotherapist

Nancy Thompson - tour manager

Simon Cumming - communications

Mike Reid - security manager/nutritionist

Don Alder - equipment manager

Brian Rose - winter clothing manager

Mike Pomponi - mechanic

Rico Bondi - general maintenance


The equipment involved to support the Tour included many of the items normally required to support an extended camping trip in a mobile home, plus some special items such as eighty pair of deerskin curling gloves, fifteen bottles of Shur-Grip, and a supply of roofing tar to spread on the gloves for better grip on the push rims. Two items were unique to this effort -- the wheelchair and the clothing.

The Wheelchair

The original wheelchair was specially designed for both efficiency and endurance but also consistent with marathon racing standards. It weighed only 20 pounds, including a bucket weight of more than four pounds, largely due to the use of special alloy tubing, field bearings, and aircraft quality fittings. The main frame, designed by CBS, a wheelchair manufacturer, was constructed of Reynolds 531, the highest quality and strongest chrome-moly molidinium tubing, the type used in all top racing bicycles. The back wheels were typical racing wheels, consistent with marathoning size specifications. The front wheels were 18 inches in diameter…the largest permitted under marathon racing rules…with high pressure sew-up racing tires. The tires ran on custom-made CBS aluminum tubes with field bearings for low maintenance and long life. Steering design was based on automotive principles using king pins, tie rods, and steering rods. The front end had an independent suspension so as not to be affected by changes in camber or by the camber itself. A special feature of the design permitted the angle of the bucket to be changed, to adjust to the grade of the road, and the angle of the push rims to keep them in the optimum position in relation to Rick's natural arm length and the force required for the road grade. The brakes were standard calipers operated by a single lever on the steering handle, providing equalized braking on the two back wheels. The bucket was of fiberglass with a sheepskin lining to minimize chaffing. The chair cost $3,000.

The February 1986 decision to slow the pace of the tour to permit Rick to spend more time with people who wanted to meet him and to alleviate recurring tendonitis and shoulder and wrist problems resulted in a new problem and the redesign of the wheelchair. The original schedule had avoided winter weather, but Rick was now scheduled to arrive in Canada in September. He would be wheeling across Canada in the most severe weather. This created two problems…the need for a wheelchair suitable for the ice and snow conditions and clothing capable of meeting a paraplegics special needs in a very harsh environment.

The Winter Chair

A special team, Gerry Smith, a customized-wheelchair manufacturer in Florida, and Peter Tournau, a B.C. Telephone Company employee, was assembled to design and build a winter chair which was wider to provide increased stability and accommodate the increased bulk of the winter clothing. The winter chair featured four identical wheels with heavy-tread 20 inch BMX-style bicycle tires for increased traction. They rotate independently to minimize skidding, but the back and front wheels were linked by a series of bicycle chains to create a four-wheel-drive. The front wheels were placed vertical to further reduce skidding on ice. To further add traction, studded tires could be used and even chains installed. The bucket was lowered for increased stability, requiring that the wheels be angled to clear the arms in pushing. The steering was changed to an Ackermann-type design to provide stability at high speeds. This design had been tested to 78 mph. The brakes were a band-type on freewheels on each axle. This chair weighed about 35 pounds and cost about $5,000.

The winter chair met Rick's standards for a light, responsive and efficient chair. The finished product was called “a finely honed piece of equipment to be used with skill.”

Winter Clothing

When most people feel cold there are three natural physiological reactions. The feeling of cold warns us to find warmth or shelter. More blood flows to the area feeling cold, thus warming that area. Finally, we begin to shiver resulting in muscle activity which creates warmth. None of these happen if you are paraplegic.

Canada throws a “Welcome Home” party for their hero, Rick Hansen

Canada throws a “Welcome Home” party for their hero, Rick Hansen.

Paraplegics have no feeling in the limbs below the injury to their spinal cord. In cold weather, lack of sensation can lead to frostbite without warning. This concern, which limits the activity of paraplegics in winter in most parts of Canada, had until recently been accepted as a fact of life.

Igor Mekjavic, Professor of Environmental Physiology at Simon Fraser University (SFU), designed an insulating suit that would maintain Rick's skin temperature above 20 degrees Centigrade. The basic problem was to create an insulating suit light enough and compact enough to allow for comfort and mobility. This was accomplished by dividing the suit into upper and lower zones.

The upper zone, from the waist up, consisted of five or six layers of clothing which could be removed or added as the temperature changes just as a cross country skier does. To keep his head warm he wore a variety of toques and face masks similar to those worn by skiers.

The lower zone consisted of a body suit and a custom-made, well-insulated “body bag” which enveloped his body from feet to waist. The material chosen for the body suit was a new type of breathable neoprene that is a good insulator yet allows water vapor to escape. Furthermore, the suit design incorporated 16 temperature sensors linked to an LED display visible to the wheelchair operator. An alarm system alerted him if his temperature at any sensor fell below a safe level. A warning light was also activated on the back of the chair so the road crew would know if his body temperature fell. Volunteers tested the clothing and electronic equipment in a special cold room at SFU to make sure they were practical and would really work.


In addition to the development of new wheelchair designs and cold weather clothing for paraplegics, there were other lessons learned from this experience. Some pertained to operations while others pertained to fundraising processes.

In the first few days, after losing the spare chair frame going through a tunnel, encountering the rigors of weather and terrain, and experiencing the physical problems Rick encountered, we soon learned that flexibility was the key. We had to convince all those not directly involved with the tour that any one of a number of variables could adversely effect the schedule. Among other things, we kept the scheduling horizon shorter. Even so, we had to make further overall schedule adjustments as the tour progressed.

As Rick evolved into a public figure, the tour had to become more pragmatic and say “no” when demands became too heavy. Priorities had to be constantly reviewed. Eventually this led to the decision to slow the pace to accommodate public appearances.

Communications were critical. A concerted effort had to be made by both the road crew and headquarters to recognize and be sympathetic to the limitations of each other. Tough decisions had to be made as to what information to communicate.

We learned early that donations of goods and services were much easier to obtain than the cash required for operations. Fortunately, small, individual donations kept pace with operational needs.

Also, those of us at headquarters learned early never to be too proud to seek advice as problems arose. The project was successful due to a group of loyal, sincere people. There was no slick Vancouver Headquarters team but just dedicated supporters and teamwork.

To a large extent, the dedication was directly related to the leader, Rick Hansen, who had sufficient charisma to inspire the team and was so focused on his dream that he could carry the others along with him, even from the other side of the globe.

Rick's dream…his vision of the mission of this effort…was believable and reflected on all walks of life. The primary message was not associated with donations but with the capabilities of a disabled person, the awareness of how the world could support its disabled through the removal of barriers that prevent the disabled from becoming active community citizens, and encouragment for people so they are not afraid to challenge their potential.

Finally, having completed the tour and gone through two cycles of allocating the proceeds from the endowment fund, we learned that raising money responsibly is much easier than spending it responsibly. As the Rick Hansen Man in Motion Legacy Fund evolves, Man in Motion continues to work hard to set guidelines and criteria that will enhance research, rehabilitation, and awareness of those with spinal cord injuries worldwide.

We are all determined to continue with Rick, “In Pursuit of A Dream.”


Rick married Amanda Reid in October of 1987. Early in 1988 Rick Hansen was appointed Commissioner General to the Canadian Pavilion at Expo ’88 and, accompained by Amanda, spent much of the year in Brisbane, Australia.

The Hansens returned to Vancouver in December. Rick accepted a two-year commitment with the University of British Columbia as a consultant to the President in regard to establishing a Center for Disabled Students at the University. As well as being an active board member of Man in Motion, Rick finds time for occasional motivational speaking engagements.


1. Hansen, Rick, and Jim Taylor, Rick Hansen: Man in Motion, Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver/Toronto, 1987, pg. 70.


Edith Ehlers was ’loaned’ to the Man in Motion project in 1985 by the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame where she was employed as an Executive Administrator.

In August 1986, Edith resigned from the Hall of Fame to take on the full-time responsibility of Controller of Man in Motion. Edie worked closely with the accounting firm of Arthur Andersen, the Royal Bank, and the legal firm of Russell & Dumoulin. Edie administered the collection and receipting of 20 million dollars over a 10 month period.

Edie, currently the Director of Fundraising for the Canadian Paraplegic Association, B.C. division, has been appointed to the board of the Man in Motion Society. She remains closely involved with the evolution of the ongoing Legacy Fund.


Simon Cumming joined the Man in Motion tour in May 1986 after completing a Bachelor of Arts (International Relations) degree at the University of British Columbia. Previous public relations/communications experience with the U.S. based musical group ’Up With People’ helped Simon immensely in his duties as the tour's advance person.

On tour, Simon was responsible for special event coordination, community relations, and served with tour manager Nancy Thompson as the group's media liaison.

Simon currently resides in Vancouver, B.C. He has served as a sales representative and national sales manager for a nationally renowned screen printing company and is looking to enter the communications field.


“The Man In Motion World Tour is over - but for myself and the crew and the thousands of volunteers around the world who helped make the journey itself such a success, the dream is not over - there is still much to do. We have come a long way toward making everyone aware of the potential of disabled persons … but there are still barriers to be broken down - barriers that limit all of us physically, socially and emotionally from reaching our full potential. I hope you will join with me in the continuing challenge of the dream behind the Man In Motion World Tour journey - the dream to make this world a better place for all people to live in. I wish I had the opportunity to thank each and every one of you individually for all your help - but instead I'll just have to say it here.


This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

July 1989 pm network



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