Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Terry Fox, Steve Fonyo, Rick Hansen and how 2010 Olympics affected them

While Terry Fox was running across Canada to raise cancer awareness and research support he said, “Even if I don’t finish, we need others to keep going.”

Steve Fonyo, a teen was inspired by Terry Fox and wanted to complete Terry Fox’s vision of a run across Canada to raise money for cancer. He also was an amputee due to cancer. He started five years after Terry at age 18 and he did it in 1985, raising $14 million for Cancer and cancer research. Today Steve Fonyo was stripped of the Order of Canada for his conduct: his charges of driving under the influence, prison time in rehab for cocaine addiction and other ‘non-heroic’ achievements. We are more like a family than a country, hypocrites, and loving the one son while hating the other.

What they omit is that in 1986 Steve Fonyo went on to run Great Britain from the North tip to the South as another marathon to raise money for Cancer. Fonyo wasn’t charismatic, he wasn’t a celebrity like Rick Hansen the world travelling wheelchair Paralympic gold winner, Pan Am multi-medal winner (photo here) and marathoner. Fonyo was labeled a ‘copycat’ and often criticized, while enduring hardship and by showing the same determination as Terry Fox (the ‘hero’ who endured close hits by truckers, snow, who told people NOT to run with him, had angry arguments for days with his best friend and swore like a logger). Fonyo even had his Red Cross sponsorship funding pulled for that determination when running through snow in the prairies. Why? No one wants to dare the implication they funded someone to endanger their heath. Yeah, Red Cross, because running a marathon a day is good for you?

Meanwhile, Rick Hansen, who incorporated himself (literally, he is kind of like a church), announced his ‘Man in Motion’ world tour with the emphasis on his inspiration from Terry Fox (who was conveniently not around to tell stories of Rick being an ass). And he did this on the back of Fonyo, once it became apparent that Fonyo would make it (about 2 months from his finish at the Pacific Ocean). Rick was competitive and liked being in the limelight. He knew how to make a good press conference, and had camera presence and experience, and knew how to keep being in the limelight from his years as a world class athlete. Smart enough not to wheel across Canada while Steve Fonyo completed Terry Fox’s goal, Hansen and his ‘team’ (support but also media and photo op personell) took off.

Rick Hansen’s press conference had more people (click here to see) than the crowd to see Steve Fonyo, who had run almost 10,000 km to dip his toe in the pacific at mile zero.
The statue erected at mile Zero though, was of Terry Fox, who while inspiring it, never made it there.

So after the UK, Steve Fonyo gets the Order of Canada. He has run 15,000 km+, raised millions for charity, given up years of his life and….now what? Well, ‘what’ means finding a job, so he became a mechanic, up in rough BC (where oddly Rick and Terry both came from). No statue, just young and tired.

Rick Hansen meanwhile arrives back a hero, and while Fonyo fixed cars and drank, Hansen made himself into a ‘foundation’, which reads like a mix between a dictator’s press release and a meglomaniac, online here (Hope and Inspiration is found under ‘The Hansen Effect’). Rick does not get touched, he touches others: he raises the hand of a teen in a wheelchair during a motivation speech (under the section ‘Hope and Inspiration’), he sits in the limelight as the header for the eight lesson plans for kids 9 and up, like lesson one, ‘Wheeling against the World’s Weather’ where kids as step one ‘listen to the Rick Hansen story’ and the aim is: “Students will appreciate the magnitude of Rick and his team’s achievements during the Man In Motion World Tour.” Did Steve Fonyo like the irony that the very weather that had his funding slashed is now a testament to ‘appreciate the difficulties…’ Rick Hansen faced? Not so much. Steve, did cocaine, and yeah, burned out. If you have already run for years, and raised millions and they put up another person as a statue where YOU finished, and Rick Hansen is being paid to BE Rick Hansen and travel around the world while you fix cars, where do you go that is up? There were some driving under the influence, and cocaine.

What they don't tell is that Steve Fonyo'a Order of Canada couldn’t have been removed earlier. So why now? Because over 20 years after his accomplishment, in 2005 in order to try and get rid of an disbarred and corrupt lawyer, new ‘codes of conduct’ were not passed to get people OUT of the order of Canada. And of course, with the Olympics in Vancouver ('The World Comes to BC!'), where Steve, Terry and Rick are all from there are expectations.

Rick has just be made the co-mayor of the Olympic Village, while the organizers, against everything that Terry Fox stood for, announced a Terry Fox Award to be given at the 2010 Olympic games for “created to honour the Olympic athlete from any country who displays the most courage, humility and extraordinary athletic ability at the 2010 Winter Games.” In gagging irony it will be given the second to last day to an Able Bodied athlete. And Steve Fonyo, the mechanic and not beloved son? Why he gets ‘officially’ kicked into non-existence just before the start of the 2010 Olympic games.
While Steve Fonyo gets the shaft, so does Terry Fox, since Terry Fox created the Terry Fox Run, a run that specifically has no entry requirement, no entry fee, no ‘winners’ and NO AWARDS. Nor can any money go to anything but cancer and cancer research as anyone can and is encourage to set up a run (the Terry Fox Organization gives you all the materials and a booklet) “It does not have to be a big event – whether 100 people come out, or just 10, it still leads to progress for cancer research.” Run is actually a misleading word as you can walk, bike, hop, wheel, roller skate, skateboard, or horseride the 1K, 2K, 5K, 10K event. It is about community participation, it is about cancer experiences, remembering, and raising money for cancer research

Wheels in Motion also has a organized run, once which I have protested. Because while it raises money, much like the webpage which has on EVERY page a ‘donate now’ button, including a form on how to give gifts of publicly listed securities in the name of ‘every wheelchair user’ the money goes toward one particular type of wheelchair users; traumatic SCI’s. While Fonyo’s May 29th gets a few laps in school in memory, and Terry Fox gets a run for fun in Sept, Rick Hansen has lesson plan 6: Students will gain a greater appreciation for the magnitude of Rick Hansen’s Man In Motion World Tour and the incredible achievements Rick and his team accomplished.” The Rick Hansen Foundation announces proudly they raised $55,000 from school programs in three years. And the run has an entry fee, a fee that does NOT go to research, or programs, not even to ones for traumatic spinal cord injuries, it goes for his salary, his wife’s salary and for the cost of fundraising.

The 2008 audit showed that 65% of the money into the foundation went to programs, grants and endeavors. But that 67% of the money coming IN was from provincial and Federal grants. Yes, ALL of the programs under the name of Rick Hansen foundation (including the school program on learning the accomplishments of Rick Hansen) are paid for by the government. So what do the runs, those 'Wheel in Motion' fundraising runs for 'all people in wheelchairs', the other individual fundraising and donations which is 30% annually, pay for? They pay for salaries and for the aggressive fundraising that the organization does. ("Ald. Andre Chabot, Mayor Dave Bronconnier, event co-chair Barry Lindemann, and Ald. Joe Connelly, celebrate their team's hard work in the Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion relay race yesterday. The event raised more than $80,000 benefiting people living with spinal cord injuries") You wheeled/ran for spinal cord injuries, but you paid for Rick Hansen to be….Rick Hansen. And that makes me mad, the people lied to, including those with spinal cord injuries.

The fundraising page looks like any fortune 500 company: ): “We need to be able to attract, retain and motivate a team of highly-qualified individuals to help us continue to succeed, in a very competitive marketplace. The experienced leadership necessary to lead these complex initiatives is part of what makes RHF extraordinary. Our team is responsible for the success of our innovations and resulting impact we are able to have.” Wha? They are a charity right, or do they make advanced electronics?

And learning from Jerry Lewis, they pimp the children. And that is why I protest Rick Hansen, because he does not represent all wheelchair users, does not educate people on wheelchair or disability but he does USE people. He just doesn't educate them, not even to the complexities of Spinal Cord Injuries. His new poster children (seen on every page, right next to the Donate button): Six-year-old Aluki Chupik-Hall (scoliocis) (who had a ‘Rick Hansen Theme’ fifth birthday party) and thirteen year old Hisham Mohammad with SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy) whose message is ‘be like Rick’ are used to raise funds for traumatic Spinal Cord injuries. No information or education on SMA or childhood scoliocis is given, and misinformation, like when Hisham, with SMA refers to himself as a ‘parapalygic’ like the traumatic break at T10-T12 with Rick Hansen, there is no correction. We are lead to believe this is a mini Rick. Rick Hansen doesn’t have SMA, nor does he fund programs for SMA. However, if your kids are too old for the school lessons they can always go see, the Rick Hansen Play, Rick: the Rick Hansen Story (Ticket sales and school and other performances here).
Do I think Steve Fonyo got the shaft? Yeah. He made human mistakes and he paid for them. But he also raised millions of dollars over 25 years ago that while the only recognition given to him has been stripped away to silence him, the money raised isn’t about to be returned (or honored). I don't think he even gets free tickets to the Olympics? I bet the Mayor Rick Hansen does!

The 2010 Olympics seem to love playing with bodies as they have Terry Fox (who likely wouldn’t have made it into the paralympics and was about participation now having a named award given not to raise cancer, not to raise disability or accessibility awareness, sad that. Nor does it highlight that Canada is in the third DECADE of debating a National Disability Act but Awards celebrating ‘extraordinary athletic ability’: basically the guy who slogged it around with a home made leg doing a hop and step to grit his teeth and go on is created into an award for in-born athletic ability? For Able Bodied Athletes? Ohhh, listen, you can hear the rolling in the grave now!

27 comments:

wendryn said...

I didn't know this - thank you for explaining all of it!

FridaWrites said...

I had not even heard of Steve Fonyo before--I wish him the best with his future endeavors and hope that life improves for him, with his accomplishments acknowledged. Almost all non-micro-charities are increasingly "glossy" and use the same business ideas as for-profits these days. They sometimes miss the mark a lot when they advertise; whatever maximizes money is the route taken. And yes, non-SCIs need big help with getting wheelchairs sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Great blog. Steve Fonyo is only human. How cruel to strip him of the Order of Canada, which he earned! The world is made up of all kinds of people, some a little more colourful than others....

Lene Andersen said...

Brilliant essay! I think it's scandalous that Fonyo doesn't get to keep his Order of Canada - he deserved it and the troubles he's having now has nothing to do with his accomplishment.

And I don't even know what to say about the Terry Fox Award. Have to stop the nausea before I can think. That's... so... moronic? Is that the word? Offensive's another.

Victor Kellar said...

A very very insightful post, thanks for this Beth. I was just having a discussion with someone, around the Haiti disaster about careful you have to be when considering charities and where the money actually goes

I'm thoroughly disgusted with the olympics and the amount of spin doctory that goes on. When the torch passed this way, 80% of the runners worked for CTV, who own the air right to the thing

Keep up the good wor

Vanessa said...

Wow I learned something new today. I had never even heard of Steve Fonyo before now. XP I'll be sure to Google him for more info. :D

Olivia said...

Thanks for this, a very interesting, thoughtful, passionate post. The Terry Fox award at the Olympics is a bizarre idea all round. It's not mentioned on the Terry Fox Foundation website - which is probably just as it should be.

e said...

I knew none of this either; I hope Fonyo's life improves and the Fox thing at the Olympics sounds idiotic...

Raccoon said...

Tell us how you really feel...

Steve Fonyo is an unfamiliar person to me. Yes, he's made mistakes, but revoking his 00C is revisionist history. It sounds like his biggest mistake was back when he got his leg amputated: poor publicity.

And this "Wheels in Motion" charity? Doesn't sound like something I would really want to be part of. Deceptive advertising. Yeah, I'm a SCI, but I'll give my money to C&DR, thankyouverymuch.

Raccoon said...

Your blog entry makes #10 when I tried to Steve Fonyo.

Well, I thought that it was cool.

Devi said...

Thank you for this food for thought!

The difference between being a hero (bad acts and human flaws nonewithstanding) and being hailed as a hero is often more about marketing (and marketability) than anything else...

william Peace said...

Well done. Hansen and Wheels in Motion remind me of Christopher Reeve and the foundation he created in that they rely on antiquated beliefs about disability. This is an effective means to raise money but one at its root is based on pity thereby harkening back to Jerry Lewis. Do these organizations do good? Yes, but at a great social cost in terms of our understanding of disability. Lost in the mix are people such as Steve Fonyo whose life is more complex and real.

Dagny said...

Fuck Rick Hansen.

thank you so much for writing this. I have known about Steve and his struggles, but this is just too much.

What a crappy country...bunch of assholes.

cheryl g said...

I think taking the Order of Canada away from Steve Fonyo is completely wrong. He was given the Order in recognition of his cancer fund-raising and accomplishing the run across Canada. His current issues do not change the fact that he did raise a lot of money and did a significant thing.

As for Rick Hansen and his charity. I have always had issue with the fact that his group excludes people. If you have a spinal cord injury then welcome. If you are in a wheelchair because of mobility loss do to disease or because of a chronic condition like SMA then Wheels In Motion isn't there to help you. I do not support charities with high aministrative costs either. There are a lot of great groups out there who operate their organizations with 25% or less of the contributions going to administrative costs. They are who I support.

The Terry Fox Award at the Olympics makes me ill. It just seems like they are cashing in on the "Legend of Terry Fox" to create a press release and a photo op - not because they are honoring Terry Fox's memory or trying to raise awareness.

Laura said...

Excellent research Elizabeth! I can't believe that the fake tries to claim "More importantly was the collective shift in consciousness in the belief of the potential of people with disabilities when barriers are removed." Then goes on to claim,
"As President & CEO of the Rick Hansen Foundation, he has helped to generate $200 million for SCI research and quality of life programs. His efforts have continued to improve the prognosis for newly injured individuals and have increased support and care for those living with SCI providing opportunities for them to live to their full potential." Yeah, like he is the only one and then it only is a benefit those with traumatic spinal injuries.

When I read this statement I had had enough of Mr.Rick Hanson "to build on the great example Canada has become in making the world fully accessible and inclusive for everyone. His passion and commitment to making an extraordinary difference in the lives of others continues." He is nothing more than a snake oil salesman, albeit a rather good one.

Please people go to his foundation site and read about the wonderous Mr. Hanson. He knows the right asses to kiss for sure or perhaps another politicion Another surety is that he is a fraud.

Steve Fonyo actually is a better role model. His difficulties show to all that he is fully human. If he can overcome the adversities that he has had, perhaps others will be inspired by that to overcome the very same adversities.

Maybe we should set up the Dr. Elizabeth McClung foundation!

Great job Elizabeth!!!

Diane J Standiford said...

My cousin wants to start a charity, I want to be a part, I DON'T want to EVER make these insane mistakes like, as one commenter said "glossy corporations" make, or certainly not like the moral fiber tear that Rick is a part of. I hope your post opens many eyes.

Elizabeth McClung said...

I am disappointed in the maneuverings within BC that once again, instead of doing what is right, or good, we have relied on peace and order. So are most Canadians, who feel that Steve Fonyo deserves his order of Canada (let's nominate him!).

I have no problem with Rick Hansen fundraising for SCI, I applaud that. I do have a problem with Rick Hansen telling people that he is fundraising for 'a society of all inclusion' and 'for all wheelchair users' and then spending that money on what I THOUGHT was SCI: turns out it was salaries for high end fundraisers, board members, Rick Hansen travel expenses and his Salary (since Rick Hansen is listed as the number fundraising aspect of the foundation and on the fundraising page is states that wages must be competitive to those who are successful at fundraising.

Aside from that, Rick Hansen is a great athlete, did a great journey (25 years ago), and has raised money for SCI research, and helped on two ventures to help BC SCI individuals. He has made Vancouver a place where an SCI can get the type of funding for comprehensive rehab, an apartment with appropriate renovations, job opportunities and a full range of activities from Glider flying (solo even) to competitive racing teams. Something we don't even have in the provincial capital.

I don't think Christopher Reeve took a salary, or incorporated his name, or used people with OTHER conditions who need funding and assistance to get money for SCI research. I am not as read up on his foundation, but since I am here and everything is sort of in-my-face, like "Do you want to go to university free, no problem, sign here....oh wait, you don't have a traumatic spinal cord injury, never mind", along with the Rick Hansen run being THE annual fun run/fundraiser which everyone including TV and radio announcers thinks is for ALL people in wheelchairs....because all the pamphlets says so, they say the funding is going for all wheelchair users. But it isn't. So people think I am so happy that they are doing the Rick Hansen run JUST FOR ME. Errr.......how do I explain this....?

While some/many SCI boards are including non traumatic SCI individuals, the Rick Hansen Foundation is not.

And for both groups, I really wish someone would take a portion of the effort explaining a traumatic SCI and explain Spina Bifida (which is included in the SCI grouping). But then that is me hoping that by knowledge does understanding grow.

One of the problems last year is that the Rick Hansen foundation sucked in so MANY grants and federal and provincial funding in 2008-2009 of which, under accounting regulation could NOT be used to pay a fundraiser or a salary of a board member but had to be used for what was applied for, that there was a 2% shortfall of all Foundation funds where money could not be diverted into salaries, so even all private fundraising or fun runs was not enough to cover administrative and fundraising costs.

Matthew Smith said...

I notice you keep referring to "traumatic SCI"; do you mean they exclude people with SCI from non-traumatic causes like transverse myelitis and spinal strokes?

As for the wrong usage of the term "paraplegic", this is endemic in the media. They will commonly report that someone was "paralysed from the waist down" if they are not as severely disabled as Christopher Reeve, as we saw with Teddy Pendergrass recently.

I wrote a correction note to the Guardian, pointing out that he was actually a quad. They wrote me back last Thursday asking for proof, and I suggested they contact Pendergrass's foundation and pointed them to a couple of articles, one of which gives the exact location of his injury (C5/6) and noting that the signs were there for anyone who knows them, e.g. power chair, balled-up "quad hands", decreased vocal power. They still haven't printed my letter or any correction more than a week later. Perhaps they thought it was too minor a detail? I'm sure it wasn't to him.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Matthew Smith: It is an interesting question, they do not support demylianization, or other forms of degenerative conditions, they do support spinal cancer, but mostly traumatic (by which they mean occuring at one incident) Spinal Cord Injuries, though again, while the BCPA accepts degenerative diseases and post polio along with partial para, on the phone the representative only accepted the last. Para, Quads, Tetra, spinal cancer, spina bifida (other neuropathy, including completely destruction like ALS, is not), spinal degeneration is not, nor are spinal lesions. It got down to the person asking me to submit MRI's of my spine and they (the foundation) would determine if I was qualified or not. They do not tend to work with stroke. What I found odd was that because the organization had created or influenced the two largest rehab centers for the entire province, that Rick Hansen, a single individual was effectively creating a definition of who was and who was not injuried regarding nerves, spinal injury and more. And controlling the grants and funding - one person gets the 'self sufficient apartment and care', the other does not.

So while I am a partial quad for sports, a low functioning quad for care, neuropathy to my breastbone (oddly matching the T6 MRI spot), and though the nerves are destroyed, since it did not happen in a 'trauma' - no, do not qualify for education grants, do not fit in box. But then, neither do so many others who would benefit from rehab, have the same problems. For hand control I am referred to SCI centers, for bowel and bladder I am referred to Spina Bifida centers. But for those doctors who have not seen a lot of either, where do they refer the person: home.

And I did point out to the Manager at Rick Hansens that once a MS patient HAS no nerve function or electrical stimulation on a part of the nerve, does that NOT then make it a SCI. No, not to the RHF.

Baba Yaga said...

I'm understanding this better as I read...

Ward said...

I've always thought Steve got a raw deal. He was just a punk kid who set out to do something but didn't know exactly what he was getting into and didn't know how to handle the fame. Stripping his Order doesn't seem right to me.

Terry was older and didn't get as much attention at first (by fluke, I saw a news item of him dipping his foot in the Atlantic, but it wasn't a big deal when he started.) If he'd survived, I think he would've handled it better than Steve did.

I've never had an opinion about Rick one way or another, although it did surprise me to see how well he can get around with crutches, ie he's not confined to a wheelchair like some people are.

Denise said...

I learn about the most interesting people here. Fonyo's story is sad, and he's still an admirable person. In this day of white-collar fraud, misrepresentation of accomplishments, and so forth, I admire that his crime is a low, human one. No one should drive intoxicated. But he did not start a foundation to give himself a lavish lifestyle; he got into a manual labor business and lived in somewhat obscurity.

There is a part of me wondering just how much Rick Hansen hates himself, to degrade others and to play the tamed dog when called to show off what a "good" wheelchair user looks like.

Anonymous said...

The current Canada Revenue Agency lists the top salary at the Rick Hansen Foundation as +$350,000/per year. You'll be surprised what the top 10 earn there.

search for CRA Charity return

Name withheld for good reason...

Cheers

nwtrunner said...

Wonderful essay on Steve, Terry, and Rick, but particularly on Steve and why he should NEVER have been stripped of the Order of Canada and they bloody well should give it back to him and apologize. Saw that Steve recently got married on Fonyo Beach (one honour that's not been stripped) and I wish him nothing but the very best over the coming years. He deserves much more recognition and support, particularly from the GG's office. Maybe the new GG will reverse the decision. Rock on Steve!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this!!

Anonymous said...

You give all this information without any amounts or statistics to back it up. When explaining the difference could you not disclose exactly how much Rick is getting from the foundation or being paid, it would really give more bite to the argument.

Anonymous said...

I guess it is true about those who can do 'Rick Hansen' and those who can not 'You' sit around and write bitchy, false blogs that are just mean and nasty. Has everything Rick has done perfect no, but he is human just like Mr. Fonyo but i notice that you expect saint behavior from rick and dismiss drunk driving in Steve.