This weekend honors one of Canada’s greatest heroes.
No, he’s not a professional athlete. Or an actor or musician. He’s not a politician or businessman.
No, he’s a guy who died before he turned 23. But in his life and in his death he exhibited qualities that make him a legitimate world-class hero.
He is Terry Fox.
He lost his right leg to cancer before the age of 20. And then decided he was going to run across the country to raise money and awareness for cancer research. And not just a couple miles a day. He set out to run a marathon (42.195 kilometers, over 26 miles) every day.
Since he grew up in British Columbia (my side of the country), he decided to start on the other side, and run towards home. His goal was to raise $1 for every Canadian (at that time, 24,000,000). He dipped his right leg into the water off Newfoundland on April 12, 1980 and set out.
Of course it wasn’t easy.
Of course there was pain.
But there were the good times.
He got to meet some of his heroes.
To meet others who were struggling with cancer.
To receive the nickels and dimes and dollars of generous people.
To discover that he was winning the heart of the nation.
But the cancer came back and halted his run at 5373 km (3339 mi) at Thunder Bay, Ontario. Although he wanted to come back and complete the run, he passed away June 28, 1981—1 month before his 23rd birthday.
By this point his Marathon of Hope had indeed raised over $24,000,000.
But that isn’t the end of the story.
He had lit the fire under Canadians. By September of 1981, plans came together for a country-wide Terry Fox Run in communities large and small to continue to raise money.
So, every September on the 2nd Sunday after Labor Day the Terry Fox Run is held, now in dozens of countries. Over $500 million has been raised in Terry’s honor.
Sure, it’s easy to complain about the sorry state of the world.
But this weekend we remember Terry.
He makes me proud to be a Canadian.
I’m proud to be part of a country that gave rise to a man like Terry.
Now go and make a difference in your world.
This plaque is located where Terry would have completed his Marathon of Hope, had he been able to make it here to Victoria.