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Each year on the second Sunday following Labour Day, Richmond gathers at Garry Point Park in an ongoing effort to eradicate cancer.
The Terry Fox Run, beginning at 10 a.m. Sept. 16, is an annual tradition that is carried out around the globe. It is not a competition, but rather an opportunity to carry on a legacy began by a heroic Canadian who was tireless in his belief that “anything’s possible if you try.”
Born in Winnipeg, but growing up in Port Coquitlam, Fox even as a child was determined and tenacious, qualities that would later bring him success as a student and athlete.
But in March 1977, Fox learned he had a malignant tumour in his right leg that required it to be amputated. The night before he read about an amputee runner and began dreaming of running, ultimately leading two years later to his training for a Marathon of Hope, a cross-country run to raise money for cancer research and awareness. During his training he would run over 5,000 kilometres.
Late in 1979, Fox wrote 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.” On April 12, 1980, he dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic Ocean off St. John’s, Newfoundland and began his odyssey. He would average 42 kilometres a day through six provinces, before being forced to stop running outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario on Sept. 1. His primary cancer had spread to his lungs.
The following day, Isadore Sharp, chair and chief executive officer of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, sent a telegram to the Fox family with a commitment to organize a fundraising run each year in Terry’s name.
“You started it. We will not rest until your dream to find a cure for cancer is realized,” Sharp wrote.
The first Terry Fox Run was held Sept. 13, 1981 at more than 760 sites in Canada and around the world. The event attracted 300,000 participants and raised $3.5 million. By May 2016, the Terry Fox Foundation announced that more than $715 million had been raised to support cancer research in Terry’s name.