Penticton in motion

As rain soaked the ground around her, Amanda Lewis sat quietly, waiting to embark on the last leg of the Rick Hansen Relay into Penticton on Thursday afternoon.

Once the medal was firmly around her neck, her father Martin Lewis wheeled her into Gyro Park where around 200 happy and excited people were waiting.

“It is a wonderful opportunity to be a part of this, honouring Rick Hansen, who has done so much for the disabled community,” she said. “This is definitely one of the best days of my life.”

The Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay began Aug. 24, 2011 at Cape Spear, Nfld., with the goal of retracing the Canadian segment of the original Man in Motion World Tour. 

Then, it was Hansen, who was paralyzed at age 15 in a car crash, travelling the world to raise money for spinal cord research and quality of life initiatives for those facing physical challenges.

This time around 7,000 community medal bearers are participating in the relay, which ends May 22 in Vancouver.

More than 30 people were selected through the Rick Hansen Foundation to carry the medal in Penticton, Lewis among them.

Like the man the relay was named for, they all have amazing stories of perseverance in the face of obstacles.

For Lewis, the cerebral palsy she was born with has played a minor role in her life. Instead, the 23-year-old Penticton resident has focused on being a volunteer, motivational speaker and advocate for those with physical and mental challenges.

Others running, walking or wheeling in Thursday’s event were community members who have worked diligently to make a difference.

“It is all kinds of people, everyday Canadians, who don’t always get the recognition they deserve,” says relay master of  ceremonies  Jordan McPhee. “And it has had a great reception with as many as 5,000 people coming out in London, Ontario.”

The relay itself, unfolded through the north end of the city on a rain soaked day, culminating at Gyro Park.

An official ceremony there included words from Lewis, McPhee, Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton and others involved with the relay as it has moved across Canada.

Entertainment at the end of day included an official welcome by the Penticton Indian Band drumming group and a performance by local talent Nikita Alfonso.  Rick Hansen was in Kelowna last weekend, but could not be in Penticton due to other commitments.

The relay will depart from the Penticton Farmers’ Market on Saturday and make its way through Okanagan Falls to Oliver.

“This event shows the progression of the last 25 years through people’s stories and new organizations that cater to people with different disabilities,” said Karim Ladki, an endurance athlete who gave Lewis the medal as she readied for the final leg.

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