Richard Quan of Vancouver is the 2017 Courage To Come Back Award Recipient in the Youth category.
Richard was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy at the age of three. He has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a progressive neuromuscular disorder without a known cure, where the muscles weaken until eventually they no longer function. By the age of ten, Richard was fully wheelchair bound.
Growing up, Richard’s physical disability was misunderstood by his teachers and peers, which caused him emotional stress and challenged his self-confidence. Over time, with the help of a pediatric psychologist, Canuck Place hospice counseling and school support person, Richard was able to come to terms with his diagnosis and the resulting impact it had on his life.
In high school his self-esteem increased and Richard started to participate in activities like adaptive hiking, sailing, hockey, soccer, boccia and art classes. Eventually, however, he lost the ability to participate in these activities as his muscles continued to weaken. His dream of attending art school after high school graduation was no longer possible.
Feeling unmotivated by his physical challenges, Richard spent much of his time at home playing video games. It was during this time that he discovered Guitar Hero. This game involved a guitar-shaped controller, and it was playing this that sparked his interest for music. Richard explored Vancouver Adapted Music Society (VAMS) and took part in regular jam sessions. He began collaboration with a family friend with a music background who offered him music lessons with an adapted guitar style to meet Richard’s physical requirements.
His breakout moment came in high school when Richard’s first performance was videotaped and uploaded to the Internet. Seen by the executive director of VAMS, Richard was invited to participate in an upcoming CD and concert. This project helped catapult Richard into the spotlight and he began to develop a reputation as an up-and-coming musician.
Since then Richard has performed at several events and for non-profit organizations throughout BC. He has formed his own band, the Richard Quan Blues Band and the Progressive Blues Experience, for which he plays lead guitar. Richard has hosted a benefit concert to raise awareness and benefit Muscular Dystrophy Canada (MDC) and has been involved with Tetra Society in their fundraising campaigns. Richard also made a return to perform alongside his band at his most heartfelt place, Canuck Place youth camp. Through his performances, he’s promoting both the awareness of the organizations that have helped him and the awareness of youth with disabilities.
Although most with his condition only live until their early 20s, 22-year-old Richard doesn’t let the uncertainty of his future hold him back. Despite his terminal illness and its many obstacles, Richard focuses on all the things he can do, instead of those he can’t. Despite his adversity, Richard remains courageous and positive, and has become an inspiration to many.
Photo credit: Dan Toulgoet