Fred Fox always believed in his younger brother, Terry, when Terry Fox first broached the idea of running across Canada and raising money for the fight against cancer.
And he’s still amazed with how Canadians continue to remember and celebrate his brother’s legacy.
Fred was in Estevan on Monday to speak at four schools – Sacred Heart School/École Sacré Coeur, Westview School, Pleasantdale School and Spruce Ridge School. All four schools have been long-time supporters of the Terry Fox Run, and have raised thousands of dollars for the Terry Fox Foundation through their effort.
“We try to get ourselves not only into the big cities like Regina or Toronto, where I was this past week, but across the country, and visit small communities,” said Fred.
Fred Fox said he spends a lot of time travelling across the country and speaking about his brother’s efforts. Fall and spring are his busiest times of the year for speaking engagements, but this is a particularly busy time of the year for him, since schools and communities alike across Canada are preparing to participate in the Terry Fox Run.
The national run day is on Sunday, and the schools have their events before or after the run.
Terry Fox’s story is well-known to Canadians of all ages. After having his right leg amputated 15 centimetres above the knee due to cancer at the age of 18 in 1977, he decided to run across Canada in a fundraiser for cancer research.
He embarked on the Marathon of Hope in St. John’s, N.L., on April 12, 1980, and ran 5,373 kilometres. Terry was forced to abandon the run on Sept. 1 of that year after running 5,373 kilometres.
He died in 1981 at the age of 22.
When Terry first broached the idea of a run across Canada, Fred believed his brother could do it.
“I saw first-hand, how determined and how focused he was. Of course, getting diagnosed with cancer wasn’t something we weren’t expecting,” said Fred.
And Terry was impacted by so many others who were diagnosed with cancer.
“When he told me he was going to run across Canada, I kind of took it for granted. As the older brother, I was only 21 years old, and not living at home any more, and I said ‘That’s awesome, good luck and we’ll see you when you get home.’”
Their mother, Betty, on the other hand, had a much different reaction. She thought it would be sufficient to run across B.C.
But Terry reminded his mother that he was running for people across Canada who have cancer.
“There weren’t many things that Terry set his mind to that he wasn’t able to accomplish. As I’ll tell the students … he wasn’t the biggest, he wasn’t the best athlete and he wasn’t the smartest kid in class, but through a lot of hard work and determination, he accomplished many of the goals he set for himself,” said Fred.
“So there was no question he would eventually get home, but none of us were ever expecting the cancer would return and stop that progress.”
Fred joined Terry in Toronto, when a massive crowd turned out to greet him. It was a stark contrast from when Terry started his journey in Newfoundland to little fanfare, or the sparse crowds he encountered in Quebec.
“When he got to Toronto, it was amazing,” said Fred. “I got to run with Terry down University Avenue to City Hall. Thousands, tens of thousands of people in the city were there to greet Terry. I was only with him there for three or four days.”
A month later, Fred and his wife were on vacation, so they drove east from their B.C. home, and they were with Terry in northern Ontario. It was only a couple of weeks before Terry was forced to half the Marathon of Hope.
“The run was an amazing thing to see and an amazing thing to witness first-hand, and I’m glad I had the chance to do that,” said Fred.
When he saw the crowds in Toronto, he was able to see the impact Terry was having on Canada.
“Terry was very open about why he was running, and it wasn’t for himself. It wasn’t to become rich or famous; he was doing it because he wanted to help other people. And I think that’s what gravitated so many people to Terry, is they saw that in him.”
When Terry was forced to stop his run, Fred said they couldn’t have imagined that his dream and legacy would continue to this extent. But thanks to the students, parents, teachers, administrators and even grandparents, who remember the Marathon of Hope, the legacy has continued in the schools.
“And kids love Terry. All the values and the characteristics that represent Terry, are good teaching moments for students as well. Terry wasn’t the biggest kid or the best student. He had to work hard. So it’s not surprising that schools have gravitated towards Terry to continue his dream.”
Fred believes the fact that he was so young during the Marathon of Hope is part of the reason young people can identify with him.
This isn’t the first time Fred has been in Estevan, but he believes Monday marked the first time he has spent considerable time here. His mother was born in Melita, Man., about 90 minutes from Estevan, and he has driven through Estevan many times.
Fred was in Weyburn and Milestone on Tuesday, and Regina on Wednesday, as he continues to promote his brother’s determination and legacy.