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'Terry never gave up and we can’t either': In time of COVID-19, Marathon of Hope brings new inspiration

'Terry always said ‘one day at a time, one step at a time’,' says Fred Fox, who encourages Newmarket residents to do something unique or creative this year to support cancer research

When Terry Fox kicked off the inaugural Marathon of Hope on the shores of St. John, Newfoundland April 12, 1980, he had little more than one thing: hope.

But by the time his cross-Canada run came to a tragic end in Thunder Bay five months later, he’d inspired the world, ran 5,373 kilometres, and was well on his way to raising over $24 million — a far cry from his original goal of $1 million.

Though Terry passed away from cancer June 28, 1981, one month shy of his 23rd birthday, his legacy lives on 41 years to the day of his first few miles, more than $800 million has been raised for cancer research in his name. 

Last year’s virtual Terry Fox Run in Newmarket was a success, raising $62,759.20. The town has raised over $1 million for cancer research since its inaugural year in 1994.

The organizers’ goal each year is to raise $1 for every Newmarket resident — $90,000.

“It’s Terry that’s kept this going, along with the many people, like those in Newmarket, who have dedicated and committed their time to hosting a Terry Fox Run,” said Fred Fox. “People remember Terry’s message because he wasn’t running for Terry Fox. He was out there to make a difference.”

As the Canadian hero’s older brother, Fred Fox was by Terry’s side from his diagnosis of bone cancer and subsequent leg amputation at 18 to his eventual success at raising $1 for each of Canada’s then 24 million citizens. He recalls a brother who was “determined”, “committed”, and “a great inspiration.”

“Terry was all about being innovative and finding new ways to help,” said Fox. “His thing was to run across Canada. We’re not asking anybody to do that! But maybe find some other way of fundraising. Do something unique or creative.”

In the time of COVID-19, the Marathon of Hope can inspire and uplift Canadians in new ways, said Fox.

“I’ve heard it so many times this past year: that this pandemic isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon,” said Fox. “Terry always said ‘one day at a time, one step at a time’. Terry never gave up and we can’t either.”

Newmarket residents are finding unique ways to kick off the 2021 Terry Fox Run campaign.

Volunteer committee member Debbie Fletcher-Queen ran a rainy 15 kilometres through the Glenway neighbourhood, the traditional path of Newmarket’s Terry Fox Run, the morning of April 11. Residents lined the streets, cheering her on.

Others shared memories of Terry Fox and the Marathon of Hope on the Newmarket Terry Fox Run Facebook page.

“Sept. 1997 I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma and as I sat down to have my 1st treatment at Southlake Hospital (York County Hospital at the time), across the room on the wall was a picture of Terry Fox,” wrote Laurie Osborne. “The oncology nurse told me that because of Terry Fox research funds my cancer was very treatable even at stage 4 and my outcome would be very good… today April 8th 2021 I celebrate another year cancer free because of Terry Fox and the Terry Fox Foundation for cancer research.”

Though the Terry Fox Foundation hasn’t yet announced whether the event will be virtual or in-person this year, the 2021 Run will happen Sunday, Sept. 19.

Those who wish to participate in the Terry Fox Run are encouraged to register online as an individual, family, or team at Donations and pledges to support participants can be collected at the same location.