Devlin woman pumped by Hansen relay

Heather Latter

Marie Major of Devlin had the experience of a lifetime Friday when she participated as a medal bearer in the Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay as it passed through Dryden, recreating the original cross-Canada tour.
“I really didn’t expect to get picked, but I did and I’m glad I did,” enthused Major.
“It was the most wonderful, memorable experience that is going to live in a special little T.O.P.S. [Take Off Pounds Sensibly] part of my heart forever,” she noted.
“It was the greatest thing.”
Hansen finished his “Man In Motion” world tour 25 years ago by wheeling across Canada from Cape Spear, Nfld. to Vancouver, B.C.
This year, about 7,000 people, including Major, are following in his tracks to continue the journey of making positive changes in the lives of others.
The anniversary relay began last Aug. 24 in Newfoundland and will end in Vancouver on May 22.
Major, who noticed the advertisement on Facebook several months ago, decided to enter the contest to be a medal bearer by submitting a story about making a difference in the community.
“My story was a T.O.P.S. story, a story of T.O.P.S. love, support, caring and sharing, and friendships that will last a lifetime,” she said about the club that changed her own life.
And while later she felt her story paled in comparison to those of other medal bearers, Major was thrilled to be chosen for the honour.
“After I had forgotten all about entering, they sent me an e-mail saying they wanted me to run,” she recalled.
“I was so excited.”
Last Thursday, Major and her friend, Marie Saunders, travelled to Dryden in preparation of Friday’s event.
“It started in the morning with orientation and picking up our uniforms, which were a nice dark pair of pants, a yellow jacket, a blue toque—all with the Rick Hansen emblems on them,” Major noted.
 She also was given a smaller version of the two-pound silver medal she carried.
Major said it was during orientation that everyone shared the stories they submitted for the contest.
“No one wanted to go first so I stepped up,” she remarked, though admitting she was out of her comfort zone.
“I told my story and then I listened in amazement at all the stories.”
She recalled some of the stories, such as that of young Aaron Brown, who has had almost 35 surgeries, a 14-year-old boy who raised his younger brother and sister after his parents had passed away, and a girl who had grown up in foster homes and was making a difference at the school counselling other students.
Another story was that of a woman who was pushing people to recycle and a female police officer who had served in the military.
“I was happy I went first or I would have sunk under the table and never opened my mouth,” Major admitted.
“How I got chosen baffles me but, of course, I’m flying high and thrilled that I did.”
Orientation also included doing the “warm-up” dance and watching a video about Hansen’s tour 25 years ago.
Then Major, along with the other medal bearers, were brought to the school gym, where a presentation took place.
“We waited outside the gym and were called in to big roaring cheers,” she enthused, noting after the presentation, the crowd cheered them out of the gym.
Soon they were boarding the bus and being dropped off at their spot for the relay.
“I was the 10th one and by the time it was my turn, they were running behind so they asked if I could do a brisk walk,” Major recalled.
“So I just started jogging, which again is not something I normally do.”
But Major jogged the 250 metres until she reached the next medal bearer.
“We did a few do-si-dos back and forth, and then I put the medal around her neck and off she went,” she remarked.
Major said she brought a few friends on the run with her—members of what they call the “fab five.”
Liz Lundstrom, T.O.P.S. area captain from Dryden, and Mollie Kamm, a chapter leader in Dryden, were on hand to support her.
And Major had their photos, along with photos of Edythe Howard, T.O.P.S. district co-ordinator from Schreiber, and Liz Donaldson of Emo, a walking buddy and fellow T.O.P.S. member, glued on sticks that she carried with her.
“Friendship, support, caring, and sharing is what we are all about,” Major stressed.
“I was really happy to have all the support,” she added. “I noticed a lot of the runners just got off the bus, did their part of the run, and there was no one there for them.”
She said she did the relay for the “fab five,” as well as for the members of her T.O.P.S. chapter (too numerous to mention by name), her walking buddies, Diana Mayes and Lois Shine, her swim buddy, Marie Saunders, her dozens of cyber-T.O.P.S. buddies, and her 900-plus T.O.P.S. friends worldwide on Facebook.
Major also brought with her a piece of her mom, who also loved T.O.P.S., and dad who are have passed away.
“I wore her red turtle neck and blue pullover that she received for working the 1995 Nordic World Ski Championships in Thunder Bay,” she explained, adding she wore her dad’s ring under her Vancouver Winter Olympics mittens.
“I took them all with me in my heart and their spirit was there with me,” she remarked. “I did the run for them to show them that if you think it, you believe, you can do it—you can do anything.
“My heart was bubbling over with love and emotions,” Major added. “It was a great experience.
“I was privileged and proud to be a part of it.”