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Cross country, one stretch at a time

For Corin Metzger, a silver medalist on the U-25 Canadian women’s wheelchair basketball team as well as a member of the provincial and national sledge hockey team, a relatively short 250-metre jaunt down Ernst Street to the Woolwich Memorial Centre on a Saturday afternoon should be no big deal. But last Saturday was no ordinary day for Metzger, as she completed the final portion of the Rick Hansen Relay that passed through St. Jacobs and Elmira. With the silver relay medal dangling around her neck and nearly 100 supporters behind her, Metzger rolled into the WMC to a thunderous applause.

“It’s really heavy,” said Metzger with a laugh, referring to the medal which weighs 400 grams (or about one pound) that each bearer will carry along the 12,000-km trip from Newfoundland to British Columbia, retracing Rick Hansen’s original Man in Motion marathon 25 years ago.

ATTABOY Rick Hansen Relay medal bearer Jacob Galbraith gets a round of high-fives as he runs past his schoolmates in front of Riverside Public School in Elmira on Tuesday morning.

“I think it’s a tremendous honour to be a part of this in order to create change for the future. It’s a great thing to be a part of,” she added.

Metzger, 19, has spinal bifida and was only one of 13 medal bearers that participated in the relay as it passed through the township, first on Saturday then again Tuesday morning before it continued on to Elora, Fergus and Orangeville.

Other carriers on Saturday included Jordan Wardorp, Carla Mantel, Chere Davidson and Dianna Weltz in St. Jacobs, and Halle and Kim Detweiler, Kirsten Sills-Ouellette, Amanda Clemmer and Metzger in Elmira, day 102 of the nine-month journey that began on Aug. 24 and is set to end in Vancouver May 22.

Zoe Hahn, Chris Kurz, Jacob Galbraith and Heather Weber also took part when the relay returned on Tuesday after it passed through Guelph.

The cross-Canada journey is aimed at raising awareness of the work of the Rick Hansen Foundation to make our world more inclusive for those with disabilities, to raise funds for spinal cord injury research, and to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the original Man in Motion marathon.

“Twenty-five years ago when Rick Hansen started out on his journey, he brought what was then a unique (idea) that if you dream, nothing is impossible,” said foundation ambassador Taposhi Batabyal, who is also confined to a wheelchair.

“If you dream, you can achieve anything. If you dream, you are only limited by what you can dream. You are limited by nothing, only by the power of the mind.”

More than 7,000 people will share in the medal bearing duties before the relay finally reaches its destination, and that shared responsibility is a testament to the fact that no one in this world can get anywhere on their own.

“Rick found that out early on when he was injured,” said Jamie Levchuk, the director of the relay.

“He required so much help – friends, family, doctors, coaches, mentors – for him to rebuild his life and what better way (to commemorate 25 years) than to move from a man in motion to many in motion.”

Standing on the upper level of the WMC overlooking the pools and the front foyer, Levchuk also praised the township for its work towards becoming a more inclusive community.

“I see automatic doors, I see an elevator, I look to my right and see a ramp leading down into the pool – this is fabulous progress we’ve made, but we can still go further and we know with the help of everyone across Canada we will.”

For Weltz, an able-bodied participant who completed the final leg of the St. Jacobs relay, the work of the foundation over the past 25 years has been critical in raising awareness for those living with a disability.

“I think able-bodied people are not aware of the obstacles that are out there,” she said. “Everyone has to be more aware; everything should be accessible.”

She also recalled watching clips on television when Hansen first crossed Canada, and said that the true beneficiaries of his work and others like him will be the young men and women who are  participating in the relay and are working every day to make spinal cord injuries a thing of the past.

“Corin is a remarkable young girl, and Halley is really going to benefit from this,” she said.

“Everyone is going to benefit.”

To follow the progress of the Rick Hansen Relay as it makes its way across Canada, go to www.rickhansenrelay.com and click on the relay map button.

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