Thirty-eight years ago, a hero-in-the-making dipped his prosthetic leg into the Atlantic at St. John’s, N.L. He had a lofty goal: raise $24 million – a dollar for each Canadian. He planned to finish his Marathon of Hope in his home province at the Pacific shores at Vancouver.
Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, forced the amputation of Terry’s leg at 17. It spread to his lungs and took his life at 22.
Terry set out — followed by family and friends — in a Ford Econoline van that also served as lodging, a rehab clinic and restaurant. In 1980, long before tweets and Facebook, media coverage was limited. There wasn’t much at the beginning.
Coverage ramped up when news of this determined, awkward-gaited young man gained momentum.
Terry’s hefty, inflexible prosthesis was never designed to propel a body a marathon-a-day for 143 days. It left his amputated stump blistered, bruised and inflamed. Terry ran in agonizing pain. He said the first 20 minutes were the worst until he could break through the pain.
Terry was two-thirds through his journey on Sept. 1 – 3,339 miles — when a stubborn cough and chest pain took hold. The cancer had returned. He died 10 months later.
From its quiet start, Terry’s Marathon of Hope has become the world’s largest one-day cancer fundraiser. Millions participate in more than 60 countries to work towards Terry’s dream to cure cancer.
Terry’s fundraising goal in 1980 has grown to more than $700 million this year. The odds of beating cancer have improved considerably. The cancer that forced Terry’s amputation can now be cured.
Terry Fox and his foundation mean a lot to me. This will be my 24th year participating. There’s no entry fee or minimum pledge. Sponsorships or advertising are not allowed. Eighty-four cents of every dollar are used for cancer research.
On Sunday, Sept. 16, participants from across the world will walk, run, ride, and in-line skate to support this great cause. Olds residents have been there since the first event, enduring every curveball Central Alberta weather can offer.
Noel D’arcy and his colleagues at the Olds Fire department are again heading up this year’s event. Registration starts at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 16 at the gazebo in Centennial Park. The event starts at 11. There’s a five- and a 10-km route. You can donate online, in person, or if you’d like to support me, I have a pledge sheet at the Albertan office.
Hope to see you Sunday.