|The Terry Fox Memorial near Thunder Bay|
Photo by Tim Van Horn
For the past few years I have kept up my tradition of running the annual Terry Fox Run with my daughter's elementary school. It's not a very long run, but the whole school participates as well as several parents and occasionally a local constable. Just before eleven a.m. I change into my running gear and walk the three short blocks to the school. The day is usually a bit warm for running by eleven o'clock for me, somewhat of a wilting flower in the heat, but I suck it up and go. The event begins with a noisy school assembly and a slide show meant to motivate the crowd, as well as a student-led warm-up, and then we're off to run the route accompanied by a police escort. The kids push to the front, the athletes maintaining their speed to the end, the others flagging after a few blocks, still others, especially the little ones and their teachers, walking the route from the start. The running adults start off at a measured pace, chatting with each other and encouraging the kids along the way. People honk and wave from their cars, and the kids wave back proudly, most of them. As the runners return to the school, and are cheered by the other runners, the first few times are recorded on a timing sheet for posterity and everyone is given bottled water and a piece of fruit. After that, the kids go inside for lunch and the adults go home or continue running now that they are warmed up.
For the whole week preceding the run the school celebrates and learns about the legacy of Terry Fox. The children are encouraged to bring in coins - a different denomination each day - as a donation to the Terry Fox Foundation which raises money for cancer research. Even in this age of mega-corporate charities, especially in the field of cancer, the Terry Fox Foundation seems to be an honest, humble, but by no means minor organization - a lot like the young man for whom it was named.
I remember watching the television news with my family during Terry's Marathon of Hope in the spring and summer of 1980. I remember marveling at this young man from my own province who, with one prosthetic leg replacing the one he had had amputated due to cancer, ran as best he could - a step, step, hop kind of run - 42 kilometers each day, rain or shine with a support van following close behind. The news ran updates every day as Terry made his way from the East Coast of Canada through Quebec to Ontario. I had never seen anyone, let alone a disabled person, doing what he was doing to raise awareness and donations for a cause very personal to him. I think Canada ran those painstaking miles with him, every step of the way, cheering him on in his determination and his cause. Unfortunately in Thunder Bay, Ontario, he learned that the cancer he hoped he had left behind had made its evil way to his lungs. I remember being angry that his cancer had returned and that he would not be able to make it across Canada. In my youthful indignation I thought perhaps he should not have run a marathon a day if doing so made him so ill. I did not realize at the time that he was working toward something much greater than himself - that he was trying to motivate a nation to care about trying to find a cure for a terrible disease called cancer and he was succeeding. "I believe in miracles...I have to," said Terry during an interview with the press. Terry Fox died in June of 1981 just days before his twenty-third birthday, but not before he had received countless honors and awards and his dream to raise a dollar for every Canadian was realized. A pledge from a high level Canadian businessman to begin an annual Terry Fox run in order to carry on what Terry started was made in 1981, and this year on September 16th the 32nd annual Terry Fox run was held in countless towns and cities around the world. In 2005 the first National School Run Day was launched and since then, our local schools have taken part in this annual event celebrating this inspiring young Canadian. (My son Galen was so inspired that, at the age of ten he decided to run the route as Terry had - with a step-step hop, 'because anyone can run, Mom.' I talked him out of it, mostly because I thought he may end up injured.)
The Terry Fox runs are, for me, the right kind of 'run for a cause'. I remember when I subscribed to a running magazine and the pages were full of ads for all the runs one could do to raise funds for various charities: leukemia, breast cancer, arthritis, etc. The catch was, a person had to raise two or more thousand dollars just to be able to take part in many of these events. I don't have enough rich friends to hit up for those kind of dollars, or the time and energy that many others have to embark on such a fundraising campaign. The simplicity of the Terry Fox run appeals to me; I only have to show up with a few dollars if I can afford it - Fox himself said, "If you have given a dollar, then you are part of The Marathon of Hope" - and run. I don't have to travel to the city because the runs happen in my own community and at my daughter's school. I, along with thousands of parents across Canada, get to run with the kids, the teachers, and the principal, continuing the efforts of Terry Fox, and I see it as an honour to be able to do so.
Before we began our run, my daughter's teacher came to the back of the gym with a pile of stickers. She handed them out to we adult runners and supplied a black felt pen. The sticker read "I'm running for_____".
I filled in the space with the name 'Peter,' the father of one of my nieces and fiance of my sister Pauline. Peter died almost twenty years ago after what began as skin cancer had spread to his lymph nodes and then to his brain. I slapped the sticker on my front and headed off to run in the sunshine for Peter and for Terry. I ran with joy and gratitude for my own good health, knowing full well that I was truly blessed to be able to do so.
photo by Colin Price, Vancouver Province newspaper
A message for my blogger friends: September is a bit of a crazy month for me and I am way behind on the reading of your latest posts. I apologize, and now that it is October, pledge to read, read, read! My other blog, Stella's Virtual Cafe has not been updated with a new post/recipe in nearly a month and I will get on that as well. Thanks for your patience, but most of all, thanks for reading my blog!