Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope may have ended 39 years ago, but his dream continues.
Fox’s older brother, Fred, paid a visit last week to the B.C. Forest Discovery Centre, where the Duncan edition of the annual run that bears Terry’s name will take place.
This is a busy time of year for Fred, who is spending September and October traversing B.C. Ontario, Quebec and Alberta before he ends up in New Brunswick. Fred has been doing this on behalf of the Terry Fox Foundation for 10 years, taking over from his mother, Betty, who died in 2011.
After the Terry Fox Run takes place across Canada on Sunday Sept. 15, Fred will concentrate on school visits for the rest of his travels. About 9,000 schools in Canada have their own Terry Fox Runs, a number that mushroomed with the 25th anniversary of the run in 2005, when about 5,000 new schools came on board. Now, about 55 per cent of the Terry Fox Foundation’s revenue is generated by school runs.
Although he was just 14 months older than Terry, Fred admitted he and his younger brother were in different places in their lives in 1980.
“When Terry decided to run across Canada, I was still trying to find my way,” Fred recalled.
Fred joined his brother in Ontario, about 10 days before he had to stop running. He remembers Terry having a cough at that time that turned out to be serious.
“Little did we know, it was because of the return of the cancer,” he said.
Fred recalled that the turning point of the original Marathon of Hope in 1980 was when Terry reached Ontario. Although support had increased going west through the Maritime provinces and Quebec, things were quiet until the run passed into Ontario.
“When they hit the Ontario border, and a couple of days later when they arrived in Ottawa, it just went crazy,” Fred said.
Because Terry’s run peaked in Ontario, he still has a palpable presence in that province, according to Fred.
“They still feel that momentum there,” he said. “I bump into people all the time who might have been this high [holding his hand about knee-high], waiting with their parents for Terry to run by, who are now organizing runs.”
One of Terry’s major supporters along the way was Isadore Sharp, who founded the Four Seasons hotel chain and lost his own teenage son to cancer. Sharp pledged $2 per mile to the Marathon of Hope and challenged 1,000 other companies to do the same.
After Terry had to stop running, Sharp told him he was committed to creating an event to continue his legacy. Sharp helped found the Terry Fox Run, which first took place in September 1981, less that three months after Terry’s death. Nearly 40 years later, Sharp is still on the board of directors of the Terry Fox Foundation.
Vancouver Islander Steve Nash is another big supporter of the Terry Fox cause who stands out to Fred.
“As a six-year-old [in 1980], every morning he woke up and read the paper to see where Terry was,” Fred noted.
In 2013, the Basketball Hall-of-Famer co-directed a documentary for ESPN’s acclaimed 30 for 30 series about Fox called Into the Wind.
Terry was an accomplished athlete, playing multiple sports and being named his high school’s athlete of the year. After his leg was amputated, he played wheelchair basketball on a team led by Rick Hansen, winning three national championships. Still, Fred says it was Terry’s drive, and not natural talent, that pushed him, both before and after he lost his leg to cancer. That drive continues to inspire people across Canada and around the world to continue his work.
“People think he must have been a great athlete, running all the time,” he said. “But he’d be the first to tell you that wasn’t the case.”
Fox was in Duncan as part of a tour of Vancouver Island, meeting with Duncan run organizer Todd Frykas and getting a first-hand view of the facilities.
Ladysmith, Nanaimo, Parksville, Port Alberni, Ucluelet, Comox, Campbell River, Port Hardy all have Terry Fox Run events. Greater Victoria has three. Details and registration for the one nearest you are avaialble at the Terry Fox Foundation website (terryfox.org).
Frykas humbly acknowledged to Fred that the Duncan run is probably not among the biggest in Canada, but it is a true community effort, with major support from the Forest Discovery Centre, the Ceevacs Roadrunners running club, and several local service clubs, among others.
“We’re not huge, but we do what we can.”
Fred was pleased to see so many different individuals and groups coming together to make the Duncan event happen.
“I see so many people in a town this size trying to do everything on their own.”