As the 25th Anniversary Rick Hansen Relay comes to a close today — nine months and two days after it began in Newfoundland — one Ladysmith resident is cherishing her participation in the milestone event.
Debby Baker, an accomplished marathon runner, was selected to be a medal bearer in Burnaby as the relay passed through Sat., May 19.
The Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary relay featured 7,000 medal bearers carrying the 85-milimetre silver tribute to the original journey across Canada in sections, recreating the path Rick Hansen took in his wheelchair from 1985 to 1987.
Baker was assigned a 250-metre section to be completed in a four-minute time limit.
“It’s kind of like being a torch bearer — you get your uniform, they give you pants and a commemorative jacket and a toque, and you get a medal to keep,” Baker explained.
Each medal bearer is selected because they are a difference maker in the community.
“I applied to be a torch bearer when the Olympics came but I didn’t get chosen for that, so I thought this would be a chance to participate in something that was part of a cross-Canada event,” Baker explained. “I got a call about a week ago saying that I had been chosen to be one of the medal bearers.”
Baker said she has fond memories of living in Alberta when Hansen came through.
“I think he is such a fantastic man and he’s accomplished so much. To me, life has dealt him some tough cards and he’s made the most of it,” she said. “That’s inspiring for each one of us to try and do the most we can do.”
Baker is a four-time marathon runner for Team Diabetes Canada. Since 2005, she has run marathons in Italy, Iceland, Oregon and New York, raising a combined total of more than $40,000 for the cause. She plans to run her fifth, and final run for Team Diabetes in 2013 in Dublin, Ireland.
Baker started running for the team as a tribute to a former mentor who took Baker under her wing when she started in law 25 years ago.
“Through the years, I saw that even though she took care of herself really well health-wise, diabetes still has effects,” she said. “I did that race to honour her and all that she had done for me, and when I finished the [first] race, I brought the medal back and gave it to her.”
Baker’s sister is also diabetic.
Baker says she will continue to fundraise and compete in events, but she would like to scale back.
“I think a half marathon at my age is a nice distance,” she laughed, adding that she has been grateful to be supported by the Ladysmith community in her fundraising efforts.
“I really have always found that the community has been tremendously supportive of my efforts in that regard.”