Friday, December 20, 2013

The Mystique of Terry Fox

The Mystique of Terry Fox

By Furano Yukihira
The Daily Magi
October 20, 2059


Terrance Stanley "Terry" Fox CC OD (July 28, 1958 – June 28, 1981) was a Canadian athlete, humanitarian, and cancer research activist. In 1980, with one leg having been amputated, he embarked on a cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Although the spread of his cancer eventually forced him to end his quest after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 mi), and ultimately cost him his life, his efforts resulted in a lasting, worldwide legacy. The annual Terry Fox Run, first held in 1981, has grown to involve millions of participants in over 60 countries and is now the world's largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research; over C$500 million has been raised in his name.

Fox was a distance runner and basketball player for his Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, high school and Simon Fraser University. His right leg was amputated in 1977 after he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, though he continued to run using an artificial leg. He also played wheelchair basketball in Vancouver, winning three national championships.

In 1980, he began the Marathon of Hope, a cross-country run to raise money for cancer research. Fox hoped to raise one dollar for each of Canada's 24 million people. He began with little fanfare from St. John's, Newfoundland, in April and ran the equivalent of a full marathon every day. Fox had become a national star by the time he reached Ontario; he made numerous public appearances with businessmen, athletes, and politicians in his efforts to raise money. He was forced to end his run outside of Thunder Bay when the cancer spread to his lungs. His hopes of overcoming the disease and completing his marathon ended when he died nine months later.

Fox 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.

Fox remains a prominent figure in Canadian folklore. His determination united the nation; people from all walks of life lent their support to his run and his memory inspires pride in all regions of the country. A 1999 national survey named him as Canada's greatest hero, and he finished second to Tommy Douglas in the 2004 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation program The Greatest Canadian. Fox's heroic status has been attributed to his image as an ordinary person attempting a remarkable and inspirational feat. Others have argued that Fox's greatness derives from his audacious vision, his determined pursuit of his goal, his ability to overcome challenges such as his lack of experience and the very loneliness of his venture. As Fox's advocate on The Greatest Canadian, media personality Sook-Yin Lee compared him to a classic hero, Phidippides, the runner who delivered the news of the Battle of Marathon before dying, and asserted that Fox "embodies the most cherished Canadian values: compassion, commitment, perseverance". She highlighted the juxtaposition between his celebrity, brought about by the unforgettable image he created, and his rejection of the trappings of that celebrity. Typically amongst Canadian icons, Fox is an unconventional hero, admired but not without flaws. An obituary in the Canadian Family Physician emphasized his humanity and noted that his anger—at his diagnosis, at press misrepresentations and at those he saw as encroaching on his independence—spoke against ascribing sainthood for Fox, and thus placed his achievements within the reach of all.

One of Fox's earliest supporters was Isadore Sharp, founder of the Four Seasons Hotels. Sharp had lost his own son to cancer and offered Fox and his companions free accommodation at his hotels. He donated $10,000 and challenged 999 other businesses to do the same. Sharp also proposed an annual fundraising run in Fox's name. Fox agreed, but insisted that the runs be non-competitive. There were to be no winners or losers, and anyone who participated could run, walk or ride. Sharp faced opposition to the project. The Cancer Society feared that a fall run would detract from its traditional April campaigns, while other charities believed that an additional fundraiser would leave less money for their causes. Sharp persisted, and he, the Four Seasons Hotels and the Fox family organized the first Terry Fox Run on September 13, 1981.

Over 300,000 people took part and raised $3.5 million in the first Terry Fox Run. Schools across Canada were urged to join the second run, held on September 19, 1982. School participation has continued since, evolving into the National School Run Day. The runs, which raised over $20 million in its first six years, grew into an international event as over one million people in 60 countries took part in 1999, raising $15 million that year alone. By the Terry Fox Run's 25th anniversary, more than three million people were taking part annually. Grants from the Terry Fox Foundation, which organizes the runs, have helped Canadian scientists make numerous advances in cancer research. The Terry Fox Run is the world's largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research, and over $500 million has been raised in his name. The 30th Terry Fox Run was held September 19, 2010.

Terry Fox was not the first person to attempt to run across Canada. Mark Kent crossed the country in 1974 as he raised money for the Canadian team at the 1976 Summer Olympics. While he lived, Fox refused to let anyone else complete the Marathon of Hope, having promised to finish it himself once he recovered. Steve Fonyo, an 18-year-old who suffered from the same form of cancer and who also had a leg amputated, sought in 1984 to duplicate Fox's run, calling his effort the "Journey for Lives". After leaving St. John's on March 31, Fonyo reached the point where Fox was forced to end his marathon at the end of November, and completed the transcontinental run on May 29, 1985. The Journey for Lives raised over $13 million for cancer research.

Canadian Paralympic athlete Rick Hansen, who had recruited Fox to play on his wheelchair basketball team in 1977, was similarly inspired by the Marathon of Hope. Hansen, who first considered circumnavigating the globe in his wheelchair in 1974, began the Man in Motion World Tour in 1985 with the goal of raising $10 million towards research into spinal cord injuries. As Fonyo had, Hansen paused at the spot Fox's run ended to honour the late runner. Hansen completed his world tour in May 1987 after 792 days and 40,073 kilometres (24,900 mi); he travelled through 34 countries and raised over $26 million.

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