Today is the anniversary of the death of Terry Fox on June 28th, 1981.
One of the most memorable aspects of my early education was learning the story of Terry Fox and participating in the Annual Terry Fox Run in order to raise money and awareness for cancer research.
We would sit on the gym floor in an elementary school-wide assembly and watch either a short film or a longer documentary about the young man who had cancer and attempted to run across Canada from coast to coast on his prosthetic leg.
Every year, we would do the Terry Fox Run – usually running laps around the schoolyard. For me, the annual fundraiser also gave me my first experiences of doorknocking. Looking back, I am surprised at how young I was when I would go door-to-door by myself soliciting funds and raising several hundred to a few thousand dollars each year for cancer research.
Before anyone I knew close to me had died, Terry’s story provided an early attachment to someone and a sense of the weight of mortality due to the gravity of loss following a terminal disease.
Kids generally have boundless energy but with the Terry Fox Run, I remember a always having a solemn kind of energy; I really did want to run like Terry. This meant not just running fast or long but running when it was hard, uncomfortable, and tiring.
Each year the Terry Fox Foundation creates t-shirts with different slogans and mottos, and I generally found these inspiring and didactic.
Many might think I overstate the significance of Terry’s legacy, but I do not think so. The Terry Fox Run is one of the most quintessential Canadian experiences. It is an event in which Canadians of every background participate and that brings people together in a story of sacrifice, effort, private charity, and civic spirit.
When I am abroad and am asked to speak about Canada, I often speak about Terry Fox or show videos of him.
Over the years, we’ve seen young people dress up like him and want to imitate him in their charitable efforts and community service.
Terry Fox suffered in an exemplary way, and this witness is something for all Canadians to behold even in successive generations. His Marathon of Hope was also the opposite of taking the easy way out.
Against the contemporary temptations of sprints of despair, we need the enduring legacy, inspiration, and good example of Terry Fox’s marathon of hope.