Twenty-five years after his original inspiration Man in Motion tour around the world, Rick Hansen is once again spreading his hope and positivity across Canada with his Many in Motion anniversary relay.
Two “Difference Makers” have been chosen as medal bearers for the Golden leg of the relay. Alyssa Denis and Matthew Grace will be carrying Rick Hansen’s medal through Golden on April 11 and 13.
“Rick Hansen and Terry Fox have always been idols, or role models for me. I remember when I was a little girl my mom bought a book about Terry Fox, and when Rick Hansen came through Golden I got to see that,” said Denis, who applied to be a medal bearer after hearing about the relay on the news.
“I was really hoping I’d get it, but I had no idea how many people would be applying for it.”
Denis was raised in Golden, and moved to Calgary at the age of 18 to go to school. It was around that time she started to get sick.
“I got really sick with Lupus, and I’ve been on disability ever since,” she said. “I have a really aggressive and really severe form of Lupus. It was attacking my lungs, and to stop it they had to do chemo, and really hardcore steroids. And the steroids, they didn’t warn me at the time, actually ended up causing osteoporosis. I ended up fracturing four vertibrae, and several other bones.”
Denis had surgery to repair the vertebrae, but now deals with chronic pain, as well as the severe arthritis caused by the Lupus. She can walk, but only short distances, so she spends much of her time in a wheelchair. And for the past five years she has been living with her guide dog, a black lab named Luna.
“Luna is a special skills service dog. She picks things up for me, she opens and closes doors. She can bark for help. She has seizure response training. She just does so many different things, this dog has mad skills,” said Denis.
Denis’ parents still live in Golden, and even though she has been gone for more than a decade, she still considers it home.
“Golden is a big part of my life still. So that’s why I chose to do the relay in Golden. That’s where I started off as a kid doing volunteering, and where I learned about tolerance,” she said.
“Golden is home still, I miss it when I’m not there. It’s a good town, and the people there have such big hearts.”
Denis is thrilled that she gets to have this experience along side Matthew Grace, a young Golden resident whose battle with brain cancer has left him blind and paralyzed.
“Matt is such an amazing kid. I am so excited that we get to do this together.”
They are each going to be doing a 250 metre stretch in their power chairs, Denis will be coming into town on April 11, and Grace will be taking the medal out of town on April 13.
Anyone can come out and watch, or even walk with the medal bearers. And Denis and Grace have decided they will each be supporting the other on their special day.
“In some of the towns, hardly any people came out, and I think that’s sad. I’m really hoping that in Golden we can get the town more involved,” said Denis.
“Usually the town is really supportive for things like this. And I know Matt is a big part of the community, so I’m hoping a lot of people will come out to support him.”
For more information on the 25th Anniversary Rick Hansen Relay, go to www.rickhansenrelay.com.