August 22, 2019
I saw this statue in front of the main Visitor Information Center in Ottawa. It is of a young man of which Canada is justifiably very proud.
Terry Fox was born in Winnipeg in 1958. As a high school and college student he was active as a distance runner and basketball player (despite being only 5 feet tall). He was extremely dedicated to all endeavors which interested him and by all accounts was loved and respected by everyone who knew him.
He was involved in a traffic accident while in his late teens and was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer about a year later. The debate continues as to whether it was cause and effect (the injury to his knee making him more susceptible to the disease) or just a coincidence. Nevertheless, he had to have his right leg amputated and became an advocate for cancer awareness and raising money for research. He also became involved in “wheelchair basketball” and helped his team win three national championships. As I said, he applied himself fully to things which interested him.
I had seen a similar statue in St. John’s, Newfoundland but didn’t understand the significance of it.
In April of 1980 Terry Fox embarked on a “Marathon of Hope” project in which he planned to run all the way across Canada, from Newfoundland in the east to British Columbia in the west. His goal – to raise $1 for every man, woman and child in Canada – roughly $24 million dollars.
He began his project in St. John’s, hence the statue there. He filled two bottles with water from the Atlantic Ocean, one to keep and one to dump in the Pacific Ocean when he arrived on the west coast.
He attempted to run the distance of a marathon, 26 miles, every day. Keep in mind, artificial limb technology in the late 70’s/early 80’s wasn’t what it is now. He had to do a “double-step” on his good leg to allow the springs in his right, prosthetic limb time to “reset” after EVERY STEP. There were reports that he was almost run over, more than once, by drivers in Québec province (proud of yourselves, Québec???). I saw this poster when I was in Toronto, promoting an annual Terry Fox Run to continue his fund-raising efforts. The poster shows how police in some provinces would follow him to try and avoid further incidents as he ran.
Weather, as well as physical and health complications, prevented him from running every day and his marathon carried over to 1981.
As you may have guessed by the fact that I have been referring to him in the past tense, Terry Fox didn’t make it all the way across Canada as he had hoped. His health took a turn for the worse in mid-June, 1981 while he was in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He was subsequently hospitalized, slipped into a coma and passed away in late June, 1981, a month shy of his 23rd birthday. In 143 days he had covered 3,339 miles (over 5,300 kilometers), roughly 2/3 of his goal.
Annual Terry Fox Run’s are held in over 60 countries worldwide and remain the largest single fundraiser for cancer research. As of the end of January 2018 over $750 million dollars (CAD) have been raised in his name.