On Sept. 8, Laurentian University welcomed the “Man in Motion” Rick Hansen to the Fraser Auditorium to speak about the importance of breaking down barriers and unleashing the potential of people with disabilities.  This inspiring event was held as part of the Glencore Memorial Lecture Series.

The Glencore Memorial Lecture Series was established in 1978 to honour the memory of five Falconbride Ltd. employees who died tragically in an aircraft accident, near Barrie, Ontario, on September 7th, 1977. The purpose of the lectures is to bring eminent figures from academic circles, the business community, public life, the professions and the arts to Sudbury.

Past speakers have included Benjamin Spock, Réné Lévesque, Beverly McLachlin, Jane Goodall, John Kenneth Galbraith, Jesse Jackson, and most recently Colonel Chris Hadfield.

“These lectures have enriched all those who live, work and study in this community” said Laurentian University President Dominic Giroux during his opening remarks. “We believe and hope that it will continue indefinitely, under the auspices of our friends at Glencore.”

Although he is better known for his achievements as a Canadian Paralympian and the Man in Motion World Tour, Rick Hansen is currently the CEO of the Rick Hansen Foundation, which advocates passionately for people with disabilities in Canada and around the world.

Before taking the stage at the Fraser Auditorium, Hansen spoke with students participating in the Laurentian Initiative for Transition (LIFT) program, which helps students with disabilities make the transition to university.  Hansen shared his experiences and challenges living with a disability to show the LIFT students that “anything is possible.”

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At the age of 15, Hansen sustained a spinal-cord injury and was paralyzed from the waist down, resulting from being thrown out from the back of a pick-up truck.  While this sort of circumstance proved to be life changing, Hansen wanted to break stereotypes surrounding people with disability and discovered his passion for sport again.

Hansen became the first person with a disability to graduate with a degree in Physical Education at the University of British Columbia. Rick didn’t stop there, as he began to turn his focus to track and marathoning, winning nineteen wheelchair marathons, three world titles and nine gold medals at the 1982 Pan Am Games. He also competed at the 1980 and 1984 Paralympic Summer Games where he accumulated three gold, two silver and one bronze medals.

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In 1985, Hansen captured imagination of millions of people around the globe when he set out on a journey to continue to make a difference with the Man in Motion World Tour. Travelling throughout 34 countries in a span of two years, Hansen demonstrated the tremendous potential of people with disabilities while raising $26 million to help make communities more accessible and inclusive.

Hansen captivated the Laurentian crowd while reminding everyone in the audience that a dream can be attainable no matter what challenges and barriers you face.

“There are no walls too big to climb, so just keep going and never give up.”