In Canada, The Terry Fox Run (Marathon of Hope) is on the second Sunday after Labour Day each year. This year, 800 communities across Canada will be participating in this run.
Terry Fox was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and raised in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, a community near Vancouver on Canada’s west coast. An active teenager involved in many sports (distance runner, basketball and wheelchair basketball), Terry was only 18 years old when he was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer) and forced to have his right leg amputated 15 centimetres (six inches) above the knee in 1977.
While in hospital, Terry was so overcome by the suffering of other cancer patients, many of them young children, that he decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research.
He would call his journey the Marathon of Hope.
After 18 months and running over 5,000 kilometres (3,107 miles) to prepare, Terry started his run in St. John’s, Newfoundland on April 12, 1980 with little fanfare. Although it was difficult to garner attention in the beginning, enthusiasm soon grew, and the money collected along his route began to mount.
He ran close to 42 kilometres (26 miles) a day through Canada’s Atlantic provinces, Quebec and Ontario. However, on September 1st, after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 miles), Terry was forced to stop running outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario because cancer had appeared in his lungs.
An entire nation was stunned and saddened.
Terry passed away on June 28, 1981 at the age 22.
He was the youngest person ever named a Companion of the Order of Canada. He won the 1980 Lou Marsh Award as the nation’s top sportsman and was named Canada’s Newsmaker of the Year in both 1980 and 1981. Considered a national hero, he has had many buildings, roads and parks named in his honour across the country.
Terry’s Letter Requesting Support
The night before my amputation, my former basketball coach brought me a magazine with an article on an amputee who ran in the New York Marathon. It was then I decided to meet this new challenge head on and not only overcome my disability, but conquer it in such a way that I could never look back and say it disabled me.
But I soon realized that that would only be half my quest, for as I went through the 16 months of the physically and emotionally draining ordeal of chemotherapy, I was rudely awakened by the feelings that surrounded and coursed through the cancer clinic. There were faces with the brave smiles, and the ones who had given up smiling. There were feelings of hopeful denial, and the feelings of despair. My quest would not be a selfish one. I could not leave knowing these faces and feelings would still exist, even though I would be set free from mine. Somewhere the hurting must stop… and I was determined to take myself to the limit for this cause.
From the beginning the going was extremely difficult, and I was facing chronic ailments foreign to runners with two legs in addition to the common physical strains felt by all dedicated athletes.
But these problems are now behind me, as I have either out-persisted or learned to deal with them. I feel strong not only physically, but more important, emotionally. Soon I will be adding one full mile a week, and coupled with weight training I have been doing, by next April I will be ready to achieve something that for me was once only a distant dream reserved for the world of miracles – to run across Canada to raise money for the fight against cancer.
The running I can do, even if I have to crawl every last mile.
We need your help. The people in cancer clinics all over the world need people who believe in miracles.
I am not a dreamer, and I am not saying that this will initiate any kind of definitive answer or cure to cancer. But I believe in miracles. I have to.
Terry Fox, October 1979
The annual Terry Fox Run, first held in 1981, has grown to involve millions of participants in over 50 countries and is now the world’s largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research; over C$650 million has been raised in his name.
July 28, 1958 – Terrance Stanley Fox is born in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
March 9, 1977 – Terry discovers he has a malignant tumour in his right leg; the leg is amputated 15 centimetres (six inches) above the knee. The night before his amputation he reads about an amputee runner and dreams of running.
February 1979 – Terry begins training for his Marathon of Hope, a cross-Canada run to raise money for cancer research and awareness. During his training he runs over 5,000 kilometres (3,107 miles).
October 15, 1979 – Terry writes to the Canadian Cancer Society to support his run: “I’m not a dreamer, and I’m not saying this will initiate any kind of definitive answer or cure to cancer, but I believe in miracles. I have to.”
April 12, 1980 – St John’s, Newfoundland: Terry dips his artificial leg into the Atlantic Ocean and begins his odyssey. He runs an average of 42 kilometres a day (26 miles) through six provinces.
September 1, 1980 – After 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 miles) Terry stopped running outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario; his primary cancer had spread to his lungs. Before returning to BC for treatment Terry said, “I’m gonna do my very best. I’ll fight. I promise I won’t give up.”
September 2, 1980 – Isadore Sharp, Chairman and CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, telegrams the Fox family with a commitment to organize a fundraising run that would be held every year in Terry’s name. He writes, “You started it. We will not rest until your dream to find a cure for cancer is realized.”
September 9, 1980 – The CTV network organizes a star-studded telethon, lasting five hours and raising $10 million.
September 18, 1980 – Terry Fox becomes the youngest Companion of the Order of Canada in a special ceremony in his hometown of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia.
October 21, 1980 – Terry Fox is awarded British Columbia’s highest civilian award; The Order of the Dogwood.
November 22, 1980 – The American Cancer Society presents Terry with their highest award; The Sword of Hope.
December 18, 1980 – Canadian sports editors vote Terry Fox the Lou Marsh Award for outstanding athletic accomplishment.
December 23, 1980 – Editors of Canadian Press member newspapers and the radio and television stations serviced by Broadcast News name Terry Fox Canadian of the Year. Terry received this honour again in 1981 after his death in June.
February 1, 1981 – Terry’s hope of raising $1 from every Canadian to fight cancer is realized. The national population reaches 24.1 million; the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope fund totals $24.17 million.
June 28, 1981 – After treatment with chemotherapy and interferon, Terry Fox dies at Royal Columbian Hospital, New Westminster, British Columbia – one month short of his twenty-third birthday.
July 17, 1981 – British Columbia names a 2,639-metre (8,658 foot) peak in the Rocky Mountains, Mount Terry Fox, as a lasting symbol of Terry’s courage.
July 30, 1981 – A 83-kilometre (52 mile) section of the Trans-Canada Highway, between Thunder Bay and Nipigon, is renamed the Terry Fox Courage Highway in Terry’s honour.
July 30, 1981 – The Canadian government creates a $5 million endowment fund named The Terry Fox Humanitarian Award to provide scholarships each year in honour of Terry Fox. The award is presented to students who demonstrate the highest ideals and qualities of citizenship and humanitarian service.
August 29, 1981 – Terry Fox is posthumously inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
September 13, 1981 – The first Terry Fox Run is held at more than 760 sites in Canada and around the world. The event attracts 300,000 participants and raises $3.5 million.
April 13, 1982 – Canada Post issues a Terry Fox Stamp; prior to this, no other stamp had been issued until 10 years after the death of the honouree.
April 20, 1982 – The Marathon of Hope fund now totals $27.8 million and is allocated to cancer research projects in the Terry Fox New Initiative Programs of the National Cancer Institute of Canada.
June 26, 1982 – A 2.7-metre (9 foot) bronze statue of Terry Fox is unveiled at Terry Fox Lookout, a site just off the Terry Fox Courage Highway, east of Thunder Bay, Ontario. The site overlooks Lake Superior near where Terry ended his run on September 1, 1980.
During 1983 – The Canadian Coast Guard dedicates its second most powerful ship in Terry’s name. The ship is re-commissioned in 1994.
May 26, 1988 – The Terry Fox Run becomes a Trust, independent of the Canadian Cancer Society. The organization becomes known as The Terry Fox Foundation.
February 1989 – The YTV network awards the first Terry Fox Award which honours individuals or groups who, despite physical or emotional obstacles, have contributed in a meaningful way to their community.
December 1990 – The Sports Network (TSN) names Terry Fox Athlete of the Decade; the field included Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan.
February 11, 1994 – The Terry Fox Hall of Fame is created to provide permanent recognition to Canadians who have made extraordinary personal contributions to assist or enhance the lives of people with physical disabilities.
July 1, 1998 – The Terry Fox Monument is re-dedicated in Ottawa, Ontario and is now part of the Path of Heroes; a government initiative to raise public awareness and appreciation of great Canadians that have helped shape the country.
August 28, 1998 – The Terry Fox Foundation announced a new infusion of $36 million in funds for Canadian cancer research. The new program, called The Terry Fox New Frontiers Initiative, represents a departure from any existing research programs and will target increased innovation and risk.
June 30, 1999 – Terry Fox is voted Canada’s Greatest Hero in a national survey.
January 17, 2000 – Terry is again immortalized on a Canadian postage stamp. This time he is part of the prestigious Millennium Collection of influential and distinguished Canadians.
January 27, 2003 – Time Magazine includes Terry in a feature story called “Canada’s Best”.
April 12 to September 2005 – The 25th Anniversary of Terry’s Marathon of Hope brought about several remarkable events and fundraisers. The Canadian Mint launched the Terry Fox $1 coin, Canadian author Douglas Coupland released the book “Terry’, Maxine Trottier published the children’s book “A Story of Hope” (joining books by Leslie Scrivener and Eric Walters) and CTV produced the motion picture “Terry”. Over 14,000 Canadians walked the Confederation Bridge between PEI and New Brunswick as part of a unique Terry Fox Run.More than 3 million students and educators took part in the first National School Run Day. More than $45 million, a record amount, was raised in 2005.
October 29, 2007 – The Terry Fox Research Institute is launched, combining the clinical knowledge of cancer physicians with advanced laboratory expertise of scientific researchers, overcoming barriers of discipline and geography.
May, 2014 – The Foundation announces that over $650 million has been raised to support cancer research in Terry’s name.
June 4, 2105 – Ontario Queen’s Park passes Bill 61 naming the second Sunday after Labour Day in each year as Terry Fox Day. Bill 61 has been enacted as Chapter 17 of the Statutes of Ontario, 2015. See Terry Fox Day Act, 2015, SO 2015, c 17
There are 14 schools and 15 roads in Canada named after Terry Fox. Every year, millions of people in close to 25 countries participate in The National School Run Day, The Terry Fox Run, and Terry Fox fundraising events.