The 95th Annual Williams Lake Stampede Parade will be something extra special this year.
Not only will Rick Hansen be leading the parade as honorary parade marshal in his wheelchair, but he will also be celebrating the legacy of those in the community who helped him get where he is, a leader in transformational change.
Over the past 50 years, since a spinal cord injury changed his life, Hansen has advocated and led the charge on a number of levels to better the lives of those with disabilities.
From accessibility improvements to better information sharing among researchers and a shift in how those with disabilities are viewed in society, the Rick Hansen Foundation continues to support those with disabilities now and into the future.
But Hansen humbly acknowledges the community support he received here in Williams Lake as being instrumental in getting him and his foundation to where they are today.
As a young teen in the 70s, returning to a high school filled with stairs and social stigmas around the capabilities of those with disabilities, Hansen said it was his family, teachers, coaches and friends who changed his perspective and led him to want to help make change for others.
“The journey that I’ve taken has helped define my passion and my sense of social responsibility for paying it forward,” Hansen recalled of how his supporters helped him change his own perspective on what he was capable of.
Hansen requested he be accompanied by a number of people he refers to as “difference makers” who have been key in supporting him and the community when he leads the Williams Lake Stampede Parade.
Members of the Williams Lake Accessibility Advisory Committee and others will accompany Hansen, then they will be followed by city council, Kukpi7 (Chief) Willie Sellars and local provincial and federal politicians.
Mayor Surinderpal Rathor said he wants to show he and council are working together with every level of government to move Williams Lake forward and he is honoured to be able to walk in support of Hansen.
Behind the politicians will be a float decorated and constructed on a trailer by Wayne and Kathy Peterson. On the trailer will ride the large empty wheelchair normally stationed in front of the Tourism Discovery Centre in Williams Lake.
The wheelchair was a metaphor to represent the two big dreams of finding a cure for paralysis and removing all barriers for those with disabilities.
The wheelchair was created by the city of Williams Lake to honour Rick Hansen and his foundation’s work and was meant to remain until a cure for paralysis was found and the goal of removing all barriers for those with disabilities was reached.
The city of Williams Lake has refurbished the wheelchair, said parade organizer Willie Dye, and it sits atop the float which will also hold a number of difference makers.
Don Alder, Arnold and Imke Bremner, Jack and Kathy Burgar, Walt and Lynette Cobb, Minette and Billy Fawcett, Brian and Murial Garland, Harvey and Carla Glanville, Roger and Dena Gysel, Debbie Hawkson, Hank Hunter, June Hutchinson, Cinde and Geordie Moore, Scott and Twila Nelson, Rossetta Paxton, Sharon and Surinderpal Rathor, Maureen Straza, Dale Taylor, Cindy Watt, Sheila and Charlie Wyse, Allan Stafford, Jeff Court, and Wayne and Cathy Peterson will all be walking with, rolling beside or riding on the float with Hansen.
The parade will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 1. The parade starts on Fourth Avenue and ends on Oliver Street.