Terry Fox, Canada's Greatest Hero


Thirty-six years ago this week (April 12, 1980) a brave young 21-year-old man began an epoch journey when he dipped his prosthetic leg in the Atlantic ocean near St John’s Newfoundland. His goal: raise $1 dollar from every Canadian in support of cancer research.

His name was Terry Fox; born in Winnipeg, raised in Port Quitlam, and unfortunately he acquired osteosarcoma (cancer of the bone) requiring his right leg to be amputated at the age of 19. A natural athlete in high school, Terry was inspired by Dick Traum, the first person to complete the New York Marathon with a prosthetic leg. That inspiration lead to a dream, a dream that motived a nation to participate annually in a drive to raise cancer awareness in honour of his name.

Terry Fox began his “Marathon of Hope” committed to running a marathon everyday without rest as he slowly trekked across Canada, while raising awareness for cancer research. After a slow start, the young determined man fought through all resistance that impeded his progress. It wasn’t until the drivers from Quebec tried to run him off the road did the nation stop and notice what this brave young man was attempting. By the time he reached Ontario, he was drawing crowds of over 10,000 strong. The nation was inspired by his determination; cheering him on and writing songs of encouragement like “Run Terry Run.” But on Sept 1st, 1980 his Marathon of Hope came to an abrupt halt just outside Thunder Bay, Ontario, when his cancer spread to his lungs. After running 143 consecutive marathons without taking a break, skipping even his birthday, his quest had ended.

At 22 years of age, on June 19, 1981 Terry Fox died just as he reached his goal of raising $1 per every Canadian ($24.1 million).

On Sep 19th of each year, Canadians take on the Marathon of Hope challenge and run in his honour. The annual Terry Fox Run started in 1981 and has spread to 60 countries worldwide and is the world’s largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research.

Over $650 million has been donated in his name to cancer research. Cancer survival rates for osteosarcoma have risen to over 80% thanks to Terry’s efforts. When I think of the number of children who are still breathing thanks to Terry’s dream my heart warms.

Many inspirational songs about the Marathon of Hope, including Rod Stewart’s “Never Give Up on a Dream,” have been written:

Prior to his death, Terry Fox was awarded the Order of Canada and the Order of Dogwood, the province of British Colombia’s highest award. He has been voted as Canada’s greatest hero to have ever lived.

April is the Cancer month in Canada, symbolized by the daffodil. I was delighted when my son Blake (pictured here), joined the fight to help raise money for Terry’s cause.

When I was 25 years old, I too had contracted melanoma, a deadly form of cancer. I was fortunate to have survived, but contracting this disease so early in life, allowed me to understand the motivation behind the brave young Terry Fox. I can never be a Terry Fox but I share his drive to motivate others to donate generously to cancer research. Every penny I receive through the sales of my book, Finding Forrest Fenn, goes directly towards cancer research. I ask that you too join the fight with me and donate directly to The Terry Fox Foundation or through my Canadian Cancer Society research fund. Your donations do make a difference.

Come along side me and join the fight with Terry and honour his determination and humility in the face of adversity!

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