Two of the participants in next week’s Many in Motion medal relay through the Nelson area intimately understand what it means to feel support in the face of adversity.
Keith Williams and Jemma Rezansoff will both carry the specially designed medal that is being passed by more than 7,000 Canadians as part of the celebration to mark the 25th anniversary of the Rick Hansen Man in Motion tour that crossed the globe for spinal cord research.
Williams was nominated to take part by a couple of soccer players he used to coach. Since he was young, the 34 year old has been an important part of the local sports scene as both an athlete and a coach. He started coaching in Nelson Youth Soccer at 18. Since that time has been a rep coach and for 10 years ran the L.V. Rogers high school program.
“He [Rick Hansen] is a huge figure in growing up,” says Williams. “He showed what a single human being can accomplish.
“It is amazing that I am going to be part of it. I don’t know if it is justified or not, but somebody obviously thinks so.”
What makes Williams’ connection to the community even stronger is his younger brother Jan. In the mid-1990s, the then 12-year-old Jan Williams was diagnosed with leukemia. Only a kid himself, Keith watched as the Nelson community rallied behind the family with an outpouring of support that eventually lead to the formation of Friends of the Family.
When he carries the medal next week, Keith says he will likely think of his brother — who is now healthy and living in Vancouver — and the community support they received at the time.
“There is an obvious connection,” says Williams. “We felt that support from the community when my brother was sick… you want to give back because of experiences like that.”
Fifteen-year-old Rezansoff is also a well known youngster in the community.
Rezansoff has a condition known as double-cortex syndrome, which is rare and causes her to have intractable seizures. In 2010 her family decided to try a type of neuro-surgery, essentially as a last resort to help make her life more comfortable. Like Nelson can, the community offered the family tremendous support.
“It’s very exciting for her to be part of these kinds of community events because we have received so much from this community,” says mom Lisa.
“Without the technologies that have been around in the medical field, Jemma wouldn’t be where she is today either. We have benefitted from research and technology and the work people [like Rick Hansen] have done to make people’s lives better. It’s certainly made Jemma’s life better.”
A vibrant teenager, Jemma attends L.V. Rogers and loves sports. Like all the other participants she is looking forward to next Thursday’s medal relay.
“I’m very excited to run,” Jemma says with a huge smile.