John Ryan receives Governor General's award 

John Ryan, who handcycled across Canada and raised $1 million for spinal cord research in 1999, has been awarded a Governor General's medal.

The Whistler resident was presented with the Meritorious Service Medal on Friday, Dec. 5 at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

It's been four years since Ryan's Regeneration Tour but it "definitely still has life," he joked.

Last Friday's ceremony was full of pomp and pageantry he said. From 25 to 30 people were presented with service medals. They were led into a room full of VIPs and guests where their achievements were read out one by one. Then they were presented with the medal and congratulated by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson and her husband. Later there was a reception and meal.

Ryan said he wasn't nervous at all but his dad was very excited about the whole situation.

"You're only allowed one guest so my dad came from Toronto," he said.

"He was just over the top about it."

The Meritorious Service Medal was created in 1991. It is split into two categories, civil and military. Each category recognizes a deed or activity performed to a high standard that brings benefit or honour to Canada or to the Canadian forces.

"A lot of guys that had been over in Afghanistan with the military got awards," said Ryan.

Those, who like Ryan were awarded in the civil division, were honoured for things to do with fundraising, community services and volunteerism, he said.

In 1999 Ryan, who was paralyzed in a 1994 car accident, handcycled across Canada from Cape Spear in Newfoundland all the way up the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler.

After 134 days on the road and over 8,600 kilometres Ryan arrived back home to a 5,000-strong hero's welcome.

Along the way he also managed to raise $1 million. But he couldn't have done it on his own, and that's why it's nice to bring the Governor General's medal home to Whistler.

"I'm a big believer that the tour was a lot of team effort too, so it's nice for the people that were on the road and all the volunteers in Whistler that helped make it happen," said Ryan.

The heavy silver medal, which is ensigned with the Royal Crown, is attached to a blue and white striped ribbon. Ryan has yet to decide where the medal will go.

"I haven't even thought about it," he said.

"We just moved into a new house so I'm sure we'll find a place somewhere."

Recipients are also entitled to use the letters "M.S.M" after their names but Ryan said he's not sure if he'll do that.

Ryan's name was put forward for the award by one of his father's co-workers. Several others then endorsed his nomination.


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