By Greg Price
Terry Fox has left a legacy that still resonates nearly 40 years after his historic Marathon of Hope.
In 1980, with one leg having been amputated due to cancer, he embarked on an east to west cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research.
For 5,373 kilometres, from St. John’s, N.L., Canada’s eastern most city on the shore of the Atlantic, Terry Fox ran through six provinces and was two-thirds of the way home. He’d run close to a marathon a day, for 143 days, before eventually having to call off his marathon due to cancer spreading to his lungs.
Terry Fox would eventually pass away on June 28, 1981, a month shy of his 23rd birthday.
Growing up with Terry as his older brother, Fred Fox knew his brother was destined for big things, given his sheer will and determination.
“Growing up with Terry, we were only 14 months apart. Being diagnosed with cancer, Terry was always determined, stubborn and hard working. I tell kids if you work hard and never give up, your dreams can come true,” said Fred Fox. “He wasn’t the best athlete, he wasn’t the biggest or the fastest, and he’d be the first to say he wasn’t the smartest kid in school, but Terry worked harder than anyone to meet his goals he achieved in schools and sports. Our Mom used to say to us all the time from a very young age, to remind us and tell us to finish what you start. That became one of Terry’s mottos from a very young age.”
Fred Fox has been on a whirlwind tour across Canada, speaking about the bar his brother set in raising awareness about cancer and the impact Terry Fox still has today, having been voted the second-greatest Canadian of all time in a poll CBC asked the public back in 2004.
“In the schools it’s huge across the country. It goes without saying, for kids who weren’t obviously born in 1980, kids are learning about Terry and are being inspired by what Terry did. Terry Fox is part of school curriculum in many different ways now. There are many different things Terry’s story can teach kids and inspire people of all ages,” said Fred. “The runs and fundraising are alive and well.”
Fred Fox will be in Taber on Thursday at St. Mary School and St. Patrick School to speak with the students and receive a special presentation of the Taber Terry Fox Committee’s quilt to be hung in the newly announced Terry Fox Museum.
In addition to being the youngest person ever named a Companion of the Order of Canada, Fox won the 1980 Lou Marsh Award as the nation’s top sportsman and was named Canada’s Newsmaker of the Year in both 1980 and 1981.
Considered a national hero, he has had many buildings, statues, roads, and parks named in his honour across the country.
“Next year, in 2020, it will be the 40th anniversary of when Terry was running the Marathon of Hope in 1980. The run has stayed the way it has because of the way Terry was. He wasn’t doing the run to get rich or be famous, or get statues, schools or tributes named after him,” said Fox, admitting in a Times interview earlier this month that when his brother’s cancer forced him off his marathon near Thunder Bay, Ont., and he returned back to Port Coquitlam, Terry was flat broke, needing money from his brother to buy their mom a Christmas present. “It was clear to Canadians, and now to people around he world, Terry wasn’t doing it for himself, he really, truly wanted to make a difference in other people’s lives. Everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer. It still resonates with people and is the reason why they are still involved.”
Today, there are over 9,000 Terry Fox Runs in schools and communities across Canada. Internationally, Terry Fox Runs occur in approximately 30 different countries, including countries like Australia, Brazil, China, Cuba, England, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Peru, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Switzerland and the United States.
As of last year, over $750 million dollars had been raised world wide for cancer research through the annual Terry Fox Run. Schools throughout Taber will be doing their own Terry Fox Run throughout the month of September, with the Town of Taber Terry Fox Run going at 9 a.m. on Saturday at the Taber Community Centre Auditorium, and will feature both five and 10 kilometre distances.