In 1980, fellow British Columbian and Canadian athlete Terry Fox, who had lost a leg to bone cancer, undertook the Marathon of Hope, intending to run across Canada from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island to raise awareness for cancer research. He made it from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Thunder Bay, Ontario, before a cancer recurrence forced him to stop, about two-thirds of the way through his journey. Inspired by Terry's courage, Hansen decided to undertake a similar journey for spinal cord injury research. But his planned path was far more ambitious: he planned to circle the world in his wheelchair.
He embarked on his Man in Motion World Tour on March 20, 1985 from Oakridge Mall in Vancouver. Although public attention was low at the beginning of the tour, he soon attracted international media attention as he progressed on a 26-month trek, logging over 40,000 km through 34 countries on four continents before crossing Canada. He returned to Vancouver's BC Place Stadium to cheering crowds of thousands on May 22, 1987 after raising $26 million for spinal cord research and quality of life initiatives. Like Terry Fox, he was hailed as a national hero. That was when he started his crossing of Canada.
Today, the wheelchair and many other items associated with the Man In Motion World Tour are preserved by the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. The song "St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)" was written in his honor by fellow British Columbian David Foster and British musician John Parr and performed by Parr for the soundtrack of the film St. Elmo's Fire. It reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States.