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Courage To Come Back: Youth recipient won't let disability dash his dreams of rock stardom

Last Updated Apr 4, 2018 at 12:54 pm PST

Richard Quan, winner of the Youth Category in the 2017 Courage To Come Back Awards. (John Ackermann, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Latest winner hopes to one day hit the stage, despite debilitating disease

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s another example of how music can heal. The subject of our latest Courage To Come Back profile uses his guitar to keep his blues away.

“I enjoy playing the blues and rock n’ roll,” says Richard Quan, the recipient of the 2017 award in the youth category. The 22-year-old was diagnosed with Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy when he was just three-years-old. By age 10, he was fully wheelchair-bound. “It affects all the muscles in my body, such as my heart, lungs, and it progresses as I age,” he explains. Richard had a metal rod surgically implanted along his entire spine to correct scoliosis, an abnormal bend in the spine which he developed in part due to his inability to support his torso.

However, he doesn’t let a degenerative neuro-muscular disease slow down his dreams of rock stardom. In fact, he’s even taken the stage with his some of his idols. “I’ve played with the Odds, Jim Byrnes, and Colin James,” he says. “I was a little reluctant to do it, but after a while of thinking, I decided that I should just say yes and just do it because I wouldn’t get the chance ever again.”

Richard discovered music playing the Guitar Hero video game. Now, he has a whole stable of real instruments he plays, using a special table fitted to his wheelchair. “The first guitar that I have in my collection is [an] American Standard [Fender] Stratocaster. And then I also have a Telecaster, a [Gibson] Les Paul, and an SG.”

A tour through the Vancouver Adaptive Music Society one day set him on his path. “I found a guitar sitting on the shelf and I asked if I could strum it and then my addiction to the guitar just took off from there.” Richard says many of his dreams of come through thanks to opportunities provided by VAMS. “If I didn’t get into VAMS, I wouldn’t have had those experiences I’ve had. So, I’m really thankful for that.”

These days, Richard can’t wait to hit the stage again. “I’m most excited about doing live performances for everyone to see what I have in store for them.”

While he doesn’t see himself as a role model for others, he does feel his story has a message. “No matter what disability you have, don’t let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do. Just try it and put your mind to it,” he says. “Anything is possible, if you put your mind to it.”

NEWS 1130 is a proud sponsor of the Coast Mental Health Courage To Come Back awards, which will be handed out Tuesday May 16th at the Vancouver Convention Centre.