It was fitting Melodie Richards had the Rick Hansen Medal in tow as she made her way along a road in Hope on May 10, as part of the Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay.
Through adversity, hope is something Richards has been able to hold on to during her life.
"Wearing his medal was an honour," the Fort Langley resident said, "as was having my four children and supporting family with me by my side."
"It was overcast but the sun came out at the perfect time," she said. "My family were able to walk alongside me and that was very special."
She added, "It was not by accident that of all places to be chosen to run, I was given Hope, B.C."
The original one-pound silver medal Hansen wore was placed around the neck of Richards, who, 250 metres later, proceeded to pass it on to the next "difference maker."
In the original medal's place, Richards received one to keep.
The Royal Canadian Mint, which created Hansen's solid silver medal, made keepsake hardware for medal bearers, including Richards.
Much like Hansen's 1986 trek around the world to raise funds and awareness for inclusiveness and spinal cord research, Richards' personal journey, both emotionally and spiritually, has been a long and sometimes difficult one.
"I am a survivor of every imaginable abuse as a child, emotional, physical, and for nine years, sexual," she said.
Richards recounts that at 14, she was badly beaten, chained to her bed post by her ankle, her bedroom window nailed shut, she said, "for growing up."
Years later, while Richards was pregnant with her first child, she had charges laid.
At 18, Richards lost her brother Jay to suicide in 1990, due, she said, "largely to the environment we grew up in."
A year after Jay's death, Richards was diagnosed with a brain tumor, lost half her hair, and spent the next several years in recovery. She still lives with the shunt.
Her half sister Carol-Anne also committed suicide at 48, in 2002.
"Life has been hard internally, behind my smile, but with it has come amazing grace," Richards said. "From the magic and wonder my four beautiful children have brought to my life- I've made it and I'm only just beginning."
When she emailed her submission to carry the medal, Richards shared her story for the first time, publicly.
Richards had no idea that, prior to the event, the other medal bearers in Hope would share their stories, which she described as "equally inspiring for different reasons."
Richards was so overcome with emotion, she had trouble getting her words out. After she did, she was greeted with applause.
The Saturday before her relay leg, Richards took her two youngest sons to Vancouver to meet Hansen, who was at a London Drugs location for a book signing.
"That's when we met him for the first time," Richards said.
"When he speaks to you, nobody else seems to be around. He is so genuine and humble."
Hansen wrote the words "anything is possible" on one son's dirt bike helmet, the other's bicycle helmet, and in Richards' bible.
"That's when I told him I was recently selected to be a medal bearer," Richards said. "He was delighted, but he said, 'I will see you there.'"
Richards treasures her medal, which has the words "difference maker" engraved on it.
"I've lived behind the wall of shame for a long time," she said. "My private story of shame has become a story of hope, and let it be for others.
"There are some sad days but it's really nice to have that [the medal]. It's a really special token to have, going forward."
The relay is making its way across Canada, and entered B.C. March 19.
It is passing through 127 communities before concluding in downtown Vancouver today (May 22).
Richards operates a home based business Memories by Melodie, creating memorial jewellery for people who we've loved and lost, and plans to enter the funeral industry.
@ Copyright 2013