Terrance Stanley “Terry Fox” (July 28, 1958 – June 28, 1981) was a Canadian athlete, humanitarian, and cancer research activist. In 1980, with one leg having been amputated, he embarked on a cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Although the spread of his cancer eventually forced him to end his quest after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 mi), and ultimately cost him his life, his efforts resulted in a lasting, worldwide legacy. The annual Terry Fox Run, first held in 1981, has grown to involve millions of participants in over 60 countries and is now the world’s largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research; over C$600 million has been raised in his name.
Early Life He was an enthusiastic athlete, playing soccer, rugby and baseball as a child. His passion was for basketball and though he stood only five feet tall. Fox sought to make his school team in grade eight. In grade 12, he won his high school’s athlete of the year award jointly with his best friend Doug Alward. His determination and dedication were again recognized at Simon Fraser University, where he was chosen for the school’s junior varsity basketball team .
In 1977, when he was only 18, Fox was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer), and doctors amputated his right leg 15 cm above the knee. Within weeks he was walking withthe help of an artificial leg. Not long after, in the summer of 1977, Fox joined Rick Hansen’s wheelchair basketball team; he would win three national titles as part of the team.
But Fox had another goal. During his months of chemotherapy Fox witnessed the suffering of many others afflicted with cancer, and, characteristically, he was determined to do something to help. On the night before his surgery, he had read an article about Dick Traum, an amputee who had run the New York City Marathon; inspired by Traum’s example, Fox decided he would run across Canada to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. He started marathon training in 1979, using a prosthetic leg adapted for running, and ran a marathon in Prince George, BC, in August of that year. By the time he began his Marathon of Hope in April 1980, he had logged over 5,000 km on training runs, and had enlisted the support of the Canadian Cancer Society.
The Marathon of Hope began with little fanfare. Running about a marathon each day with Alward following in a camper van, Fox collected money from people along the road as hewound through the Maritime provinces. “He ran with a kind of hop and a skip with his prosthetic leg … through rain, snow and hailstones during the early weeks. Fox had run 3,339 miles in 143 days, about 23.3 miles a day. He raised more than $11 million raised for cancer research.
However, Fox was forced to stop running just outside Thunder Bay, Ontario, on 1 September 1980, as the cancer had invaded his lungs. By this time, he had run for 143 days and covered 5,373 km. Although Fox vowed he would complete his cross-Canada run, he was unable to return to the road; he died less than a year later at the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, BC, only a month before his twenty-third birthday. There was nation-wide mourning. Flags were flown at half-mast. But people didn’t forget him and his story didn’t end with his death.
Fox’s goal to raise one dollar for every Canadian, or about $24 million, was reached on 1 February 1981, but fundraising has continued in his name. His bravery and determination have inspired many, including Steve Fonyo, Rick Hansen, and Isadore Sharp, who organized the first annual Terry Fox Run in 1981. The Terry Fox Foundation, which now organizes the annual run, has raised over $600 million for cancer research. Millions of people in Canada and around the world participate every year in the Foundation’s annual Terry Fox Run, and in 2007 the Terry Fox Research Institute was established. Many schools, buildings, roads, and parks around the country have been named in his honour. In 2004, Fox ranked second after Tommy Douglas in the CBC Television program “The Greatest Canadian.” Fox’s story has been told in books, television movies — the award-winning “The Terry Fox Story” (1983) and “Terry” (2005) — and the documentary Into the Wind (2010), which was co-directed by Steve Nash.
See also The Courage of Terry Fox and 25th Anniversary of Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope.
As he fought for his life, he was honoured with Awards:
Companion, Order of Canada (1980)
Recipient, Order of the Dogwood (now Order of British Columbia) (1980)
Lou Marsh Trophy (1980)
Canadian News maker of the Year (1980 and 1981)
Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (1981)
He said “I Just wish people would realise that anything is possible if you try. Dreams are made if people try”. – Terry Fox.