Canada’s Heroes: Terry Fox

by Jim on 22 September 2009

The second Canadian hero we talked about as a family over the summer was Terry Fox.  Terry is famous all across Canada, and in fact all around the world, and you’ll soon see why.

Terry was born in Winnipeg in 1958, and grew up in Vancouver.  He was very athletic, playing sports like soccer, rugby, and basketball.  He was a very determined athlete (as you’ll soon see, if you don’t already know the story!).

In 1977 Terry was diagnosed with a form of cancer known as osteosarcoma in his right knee.  At the time, there was only one treatment – amputation of the leg several inches above the knee.  He was 18 years old.

But Terry was determined to press on.  He learned to use an artificial leg, and was walking three weeks after surgery.  He joined a basketball team the same year in the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association, where he met Rick Hansen.  (a CBC article mentions that Rick was impressed by Terry’s energy, not knowing that Terry was undergoing chemotherapy at the time!)

But Terry began to come up with a plan that would make history.  He kept it a secret at first.  He began intensive training.  He wrote to companies, asking for sponsorship.  His letter concluded,"I’m not saying that this will initiate any kind of definitive answer or cure to cancer, but I believe in miracles. I have to."

Terry Fox: A Story of Hope
Recommended reading:
Terry Fox: A Story of Hope

Then, on the 12th of April 1980, he dipped his artificial leg in the Atlantic ocean, and began to run west.  His plan?  To run all across Canada to raise money for cancer research.

Terry ran roughly 37.5km or 23.3mi per day through Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario, getting up to 48km (30mi) in a day.  It was 73 days before he even took a day off.  In Toronto, he was met by Darryl Sittler, the former Toronto Maple Leaf hockey captain.  Presenting Terry with his 1980 all-star NHL sweater, Stittler said, "I’ve been around athletes a long time and I’ve never seen any with his courage and stamina."

By August 12th, he had raised $11.4 million.  He reached his half-way point just before Sudbury, Ontario.  But just before coming to Thunder Bay, he felt as though he had caught a cold.  He got worse, and had to stop.

The cancer had returned.

On the 28th of June, 1981, Terry Fox passed away with his family at his side.  By this time he had reached his goal to raise $24.17 million for cancer research.  But that was only the beginning.

The following September, the first Terry Fox Run was held in Canada, with more than 300,000 participants, raising an additional $3.5 million for cancer research.

The idea caught on.  Today, the Terry Fox Run is held every year in 60 countries around the world, including Canada, the USA, Cuba, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Australia, Kenya, China, Vietnam, and Thailand.  $360 million dollars have been raised.

We were able to see more than one memorial to Terry Fox as we drove through some of the areas where he ran.  We even saw a little wishing well that his parents had put in at a place he stayed at in northern Ontario.  It gave us a chance to give a little to cancer research right there, and think about so many of our friends who are struggling with cancer right now.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

wayne williston November 23, 2010 at 9:03 pm

I was wandering if Terry Fox stayed in Whitby Ontaio.
I was at an aution where a teach had passed away and it was told he stay at her home and she kept his bedroom sweet.
I own it now but do not have room for it.
Is it posable to find any potos of him in this room.
I,m not asking much for it and what ever it goes for the rest can go towards the terry fox fundation.

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