When Rick Hansen made his first trek in Newfoundland 25 years ago the whole province was watching.
They watched in amazement as Mr. Hansen pushed his way across Newfoundland, and later Canada.
One man saw something different.
Michael Gaultois, of Gander, was sitting in a hospital bed, burns scarring his body.
He was in hospital because of an accident he had with a unsupervised candle in a cabin on the province’s west coast
Mr. Gaultois was 15 years old.
“My journey paralleled with Rick Hansen’s journey, he was 15 years old when he was injured,” he said.
Sitting in his hospital bed for seven months with 86 per cent of his body burned, Mr. Gaultois drew inspiration from a man who inspired so many of his journey.
“It all started with one inspiring many, Rick Hansen, himself, to become seven thousand,” he said. “Imagine what seven thousand people can do in their community.”
Twenty-five years later, Mr. Gaultois is sharing his own personal injury, and paying homage to the man who served as his inspiration.
As the 25th Anniversary of the Man in Motion tour rolled through Gander, Aug. 30, Mr. Gaultois took the medal from Pamela Budden and ran with it, literally.
He was the man carrying the relay medal as it left Gander, heading over the Trans-Canada Highway to Glenwood.
Mr. Gaultois became involved in the anniversary tour when he applied for an online contest.
“Through posting online, sharing a bit of my own personal journey, one of the members of the team threw forward a nomination for me,” he said. “I feel very honoured to be a part of this tour.”
Mr. Gaultois has spent a lot of time studying Rick Hansen’s journey, he has even went back and watched a lot of the old CBC footage of Mr. Hansen’s original journey.
Each time he watches it, he draws something to inspire him.
“One thing he talked about on one of this tours, I believe it was in Europe, was when faced with an obstacle, we can go around it, under it, or through it,” he said. “We have the power to do that. We have the key.”
Mr. Gaultois said the key could be anyone who strengthens you, whether it be a sibling, your best fried, a family member, or some member of the community.
“Someone who has reached out to you, and all it takes is to say three words sometimes – I need help,” he said.
Mr. Gaultois believes the key to over coming the obstacles set in his path is his family, closely followed by Mr. Hansen himself.
“My family was the starting point,” he said,” Then Rick, hearing his story, inspiring me .you know, to realize that anything is possible when you believe enough in something.”
Being able to push through was only a small part of what Mr. Hansen inspired Mr. Gaultois to do.
It was through Mr. Hansen that Mr. Gaultois was inspired to do something more in his community.
Mr. Gaultois is also the provincial co-ordinator for the Atlantic Burn Camp.
He became a motivational speaker, promoting the use of flame-less candles in homes, cottages, etc...
“I speak to thousand of youth about learning to chose your own path,” he said.
Mr. Gaultois thought himself invincible at a young age, and on the wrong path when he was younger.
“The song St. Elmo’s Fire sparked a lot of interest in Rick Hansen,” he said. “See the writing on the wall ... my accident wasn’t just going to happen, it was bound to happen, I just didn’t listen.”
When youth hear him speak, very often they are spell bound until they get a moment to talk to him, according to Mr. Gaultois.
“When I walk up to speak or I walk into a room, I have a story to tell – my story is written all over me,” he said.
Mr. Gaultois’ message for those who think they may not be able to accomplish something, and are apprehensive to try – Just Do It.
“Don’t hold yourself back from your dreams,” he said. “How many years did I hide behind a mask and a body suit? In a metaphorical sense, I wore it for many years, holding myself back.”
When he heard Mr. Hansen speaking about it, and the fact he had sneaker giant Nike standing behind him, Mr. Gaultois decided to adopt Nike’s famous slogan of Just Do It.
“It came from Nike, from Rick’s original tour, it came from believing in yourself and just getting out there.”
For Mr. Gaultois, the medal he received as a medal bearer for the 25th anniversary means more to him than just a medal.
“Today, I felt like I travelled around the world, we walked the journey with him today.”