By Keith Lacey
Many of the parents of the children who now attend Southern Okanagan Secondary School (SOSS) clearly remember when Terry Fox embarked on his historic Marathon of Hope.
Fox may be gone, but he is not forgotten as many tears were flowing down the faces of numerous students and teachers as SOSS held its annual Terry Fox Run last Thursday.
The entire student body of more than 500 packed into the gymnasium for a special presentation by the school’s Link Crew before more than 200 headed outside to participate in the run.
The Link Crew is a group of senior students at involved in mentoring and support programs at the local high school.
Fox, who was born in Winnipeg but raised in Port Coquitlam, was 18 when diagnosed with bone cancer and was forced to have his right leg amputated 15 centimetres above the knee in 1977.
During an eight-minute video presentation detailing Fox’s incredible journey that saw him complete a marathon each day for almost five months from St. John’s Newfoundland to Thunder Bay, ON., many in the audience were moved to tears.
“He never let his disability limit him … he showed that the impossible is possible,” said Link Crew member Megan Murray.
The assembly started off with more than a dozen members of the Link Crew reciting quotes that Fox made during his Marathon of Hope, which started on April 12, 1980 when he dipped his artificial leg in the Atlantic Ocean in St. John’s.
“He inspired hope in a nation … hero is a perfect word to describe Terry Fox,” said one of the Link Crew members.
The emotional video detailed how Fox had originally dreamed about running across Canada to raise funds for cancer research the day before his leg was amputated.
After the successful operation, Fox trained for 14 months preparing for his Marathon of Hope. His original goal was to raise $1 million for cancer research.
As the video reminded the young audience, Fox’s Marathon of Hope generated very little public interest and raised very little money in the first two months, but that all changed when Fox crossed the Ontario border.
He was invited to do the ceremonial kickoff at a CFL game in Ottawa and he received a standing ovation.
A few days later, he was given a hero’s welcome at City Hall in Toronto, where tens of thousands of people had showed up to wish him well and donate money. After that appearance in Toronto, Fox changed his goal to raise $24 million or $1 for every Canadian citizen.
Fox quickly became a household name in Canada and he was also gaining international recognition for his incredible cross-country journey.
A Marathon of Hope telethon helped raise more than $10 million alone. Unfortunately, Fox’s journey ended a few weeks later in Thunder Bay on Sept. 1, 1980 when he told his support crew he needed to go to hospital.
It was revealed Fox’s cancer had returned and he had two large tumours. Fox died at age 22 on June 28, 1981. He had covered just under 3,400 miles, or the distance from Seattle to Miami, when the Marathon of Hope ended.
A life-sized statue was erected in his honour in Thunder Bay.
Terry Fox Run events are held across Canada and around the world. To date, more than $750 million has been raised worldwide for cancer research in Fox’s name.
On Sept. 18, 1980, Governor General Edward Schreyer presented Fox with the Order of Canada and he remains the youngest ever recipient of the award. He was presented with the Lou Marsh Award as Canada’s Outstanding Athlete for 1980. He was named Canadian of the Year two days before Christmas in 1980 from members of the Canadian Press.
At the end of the video, Fox said, “I’ve said to people before that I’m going to do my very best to make it and I’m not going to give up. But I might not make it … if I don’t, the Marathon of Hope better continue.
“There can be no reason for me to stop. No matter what pain I suffer, it is nothing compared to the pain of those who have cancer, of those who endure treatment. I’ve got cancer in my lungs. We have to go home and do some more treatments. But all I can say is that if there is any way I can get out there and finish, I will.”