Meeting Terry Fox on the side of the highway in Wawa, Ontario was a defining moment for Jamie Amos of Port Alberni.
Just 12 years old when Fox began his Marathon of Hope, Amos and his parents were driving back to Vancouver from a family holiday in New Brunswick on the east coast. Amos had heard all about Fox, who was trying to raise money and awareness for cancer research by running across Canada. Fox dipped his artificial leg—his right leg had been amputated above the knee in 1977 due to bone cancer—in the Atlantic Ocean off St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador on April 12, 1980.
“I was excited to see him,” said Amos, who now lives in Port Alberni and works as assistant equipment manager with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. “I’d heard all about him and was looking forward to seeing him.”
The family came upon the Marathon of Hope entourage outside of Wawa, and Fox stopped to take a photo with Amos.
Less than 500 kilometres after Amos and Fox met on the side of the road, Fox was forced to halt his Marathon of Hope on Sept. 1, 1980 in Thunder Bay, Ont. His cancer had returned, this time in a lung. Despite aggressive treatment Fox died on June 28, 1981, and the nation grieved.
Amos recalls being surprised to hear Fox had died. “I was surprised that night, I was watching the news and all this stuff about Terry Fox was coming on,” he said.
It was that year that Amos began donating to the Terry Fox Run, which philanthropist Isadore Sharp promised to create in Fox’s honour. The first run was held Sept. 13, 1981, and Amos was 13 years old. “I thought we should donate every year because we’d seen him, and I was seeing other people donate,” Amos said. “I just wanted to help others with cancer.”
He began participating in the run in 2006. Over the years, Amos has raised in excess of $10,000 and is looking forward to participating again this year. In 2020, with the run halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, Amos ran eight laps around the Bob Dailey Stadium track and donated $20. He wasn’t able to collect pledges as he has done in the past.
Amos said he will run in 2021; the Terry Fox Run will be virtual again this year, on Sept. 19.
Another love of Amos’s is the B.C. Hockey League’s Bulldogs. Most years, team members join Amos in the September run.
The Terry Fox Run in Port Alberni started with the local radio station, now 93.3 the PEAK, and runners would take off from the Alberni Athletic Hall when it was located on Beaver Creek Road. The Alberni Valley Lions Club took over after the Athletic Hall burned down and before the new hall was built on Roger Street. The club approached Tim Murphy at Royal Canadian Legion 293 and the run has started at the Legion on Victoria Quay ever since.
Rob Dalton of the Lions Club, remembers, “I can still see Jamie coming up to me with a big plastic bag filled with $3,500 in cash. He is truly an inspiration to many.”
The Lions Club presented Amos with a pin and certificate in January for 40 years of dedication to the run. When Donna White, community events coordinator for B.C. and Yukon, heard Amos’ story she passed it on to Fred Fox, Terry’s older brother and manager of supporter relations with the national organization. Together, they arranged to send some 40th-anniversary memorabilia to Amos and set up a Zoom call between Fox and Amos.
“It was exciting,” said Amos, who had been at a Bulldogs’ hockey practice when he was pulled aside for the call. “He wanted to know all about me. I was surprised when I got a chance to talk to him.”
Fox was sitting in front of a photo of himself and Terry taken in Wawa the morning he left. “The night before, the town of Wawa held a big reception at the arena. It was the last photo taken of Terry and I together,” Fox said during the Zoom call.
“It was amazing to be a part of the presentation of gifts to Jamie,” Fox said. “He exemplifies what we are about. He is a part of the legacy and grassroots of this organization.
“I am proud to say that five of the nine grandchildren of our parents are showing an interest in the foundation and will guarantee that Terry’s dream will continue.”
Amos received a framed print of Terry Fox and a book about him signed by Fred Fox, as well as a 40th anniversary sweatshirt.
“It is (because of) people like you Jamie that Terry’s story endures today,” White wrote in a letter to Amos. “The funds raised each year make an incredible difference each and every single day in the life of someone who will hear those three terrifying words, ‘You have cancer.’ We owe so much thanks to you Jamie and those like you who have continued to support cancer research and play a part in Terry’s Marathon of Hope.
“He simply asked that it be kept going without him and for 40 years, you have done just that.”
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