In 1980 Terry Fox, a 19-year-old cancer survivor from Port Coquitlam, B.C., started his Marathon of Hope in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Fox’s goal was to run from coast to coast and raise $24 million—$1 for every Canadian—for cancer research.
His run was cut short outside Thunder Bay, Ontario, when the cancer spread to his lungs and he was unable to continue. However, a national telethon raised millions of dollars towards his cause, and by the time of his death in 1981 his fundraising target had been met.
That could well have been the end of the story; but before his death Fox had given his blessing to the idea of an annual fundraising run held in his name, as long as the runs were non-competitive, with no winners or losers.
“Terry wanted the event to be open and inclusive for everyone,” says Donna White, provincial director (B.C. and Yukon) for the Terry Fox Foundation. “He meant it to be a family event, where people would come out and be part of the day.”
The first Terry Fox Run was held in 1981, and raised more than $3.5 million. Since then annual Terry Fox Runs have been held across Canada in communities large and small, and have spread to many other countries round the world. The first Terry Fox Run in Ashcroft was held in 1986, and this year’s run will be on Sunday, September 17.
Calling it a “run” is a bit of a misnomer, however, since people can choose to walk, bike, or rollerblade if they prefer. There is no charge to take part, although participants are encouraged to raise money via pledges, with funds going to the Terry Fox Foundation for cancer research. More than $700 million has been raised since 1980.
Even though it is more than 35 years since Fox’s death, there is still a lot of awareness about him and his Marathon of Hope. “It’s amazing to see how youth have embraced [Fox’s] legacy and story,” says White. “He’s not just a figure from history.”
She notes that survival rates from cancer are on the increase, and points to osteosarcoma, the cancer that affected Fox. When he was diagnosed, the survival rate for those with osteosarcoma was 15 per cent, and almost always involved amputation (Fox’s right leg was amputated above the knee). “The survival rate is now 80 per cent, and amputation is far less common. It shows how far we’ve come, and how the research dollars are used.”
Cam and Deb Tedford have organized the Ashcroft Terry Fox Run for several years, and Cam says that it is always well-supported. In a letter to Ashcroft council presented at the September 11 copen council meeting, the Tedfords noted that “Historically our participants, who come from Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Savona, Spences Bridge, and Clinton, have proven ‘Ashcroft generosity’ to the whole nation.
“By comparison to other larger B.C. communities, we are deemed to be one of the most supportive in the province.”
White confirms that for a small town, Ashcroft always does well in terms of the number of people who participate and the funds raised. “Some people think ‘We’re just a small community.’ But never discount the power of one.
“It shows how empowering Terry’s story is,” she continues. “He tried the impossible, and we try to instill this in youth. He had a dream, a crazy idea, a desire to go do this.
“He’s our Canadian hero, a local hero; not some amazing professional athlete, just a kid with a dream.”
Registration for this year’s Terry Fox Run starts at 8 a.m. on September 17 at the gazebo in the Heritage Park on Railway, with the run commencing at 9 a.m. and following a one to 10 kilometre route along Railway and down Evans Road. Water, snacks, and post-run hot dogs will be provided. Registration forms are available at the Cariboo Jade Shop, or online at http://www.terryfox.org/. They are also available from Deb or Cam Tedford; for a registration form, or more information, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cam and Deb are also hoping to step back from their volunteer positions as organizers of the run. Anyone interested in spending one September day on the Run, plus a few hours for organization and prep, should contact them for details.