INNISFAIL – The town's annual Terry Fox Run has seen its route and staging area change but the heartfelt loyalty for a legendary Canadian hero has never wavered.
This year’s 43rd annual run was held on a beautiful late summer day on Sept. 17, and for the second year in a row, organizers could not stage it from Centennial Park as it was the venue for the new Innisfail Harvest Festival.
Instead, they once again staged it from the westside Napoleon Park Sports Fields.
In 2022 organizers used the Innisfail Twin Arena for registration and the place where participants could begin and end their five-kilometre runs on an alternate route.
But this year they secured the Innisfail Curling Club as the staging area and everyone was happy, but none more so than lead organizer Patrick Gleason.
“We feel like we've kind of died and gone to heaven. It’s a beautiful site. We hope we can stay here,” said Gleason, adding organizers hope to resolve the scheduling conflict with the town of having the event on the same weekend as the Innisfail Harvest Festival.
“It would be great if we weren't competing with another event and hopefully we can resolve that sometime in the future,” he said. “The Terry Fox Run is a national run. We would like to be part of that national event that happens the second Sunday after Labour Day.
“And sure, we could change our date but it doesn't fit in with the whole national movement that occurs on this particular date, so that's important too,” added Gleason. “This is a hero. This is a man who at a crazy young age dedicated the rest of what remained of his life for this cause. I’d like to think the people that participate in Innisfail would like to be part of a national event.
“This is we as Canadians on this day celebrating what Terry Fox did, and contributing to further research for developing ways to deal with cancer,” said Gleason.
At 1 p.m. on Sept. 17 about 35 participants gathered outside the curling rink under the shadow of a huge balloon gate that marked the start and finish for the new alternate route.
Gleason thanked them for their dedication to the cause, and invited them to have an after-run refreshment and lunch when they completed their runs.
Some of the participants were new to the Terry Fox Run or had past involvement with other events that supported the battle against cancer.
“It’s been years and years. I was involved with Relay for Life for many years,” said Joan White, the 78-year-old retiring local businesswoman of the popular stationery store, Baiers Stationery, that served Innisfail for more than 30 years.
Despite her long absence from cancer-themed support events White said it was important for her to attend this year’s Terry Fox Run as cancer had more recently made a deep impact.
“I've lost so many friends, relatives to cancer. This is one way to keep the research going,” said White.
Innisfailian Vince Ferreira is 34-years-old and ran his first ever Terry Fox Run on Sept. 17. He completed the five-kilometre course in about 22 minutes.
“Cancer is pretty close to our family. My father-in-law had skin cancer and fought it and won,” said Ferreira. “It’s an important cause for a lot of people, including our family.”
As the three dozen participants were completing their sacred runs in the memory of Terry Fox who succumbed to cancer on June 28, 1981 at the age of 22, Gleason was grateful to the community for its ongoing Terry Fox Run support.
He had doubts about finally achieving the goal of raising $10,000 but on Sept. 17 he was doubly grateful for finding a new event home at the curling club and for the support from the business community, notably Tim Hortons and Subway.
Gleason was also moved by the ongoing financial and volunteer commitment from the Innisfail Lions Club.
“They help us with registration. They help us clean up afterwards. They're just there for us,” said Gleason of the lions club. “I can't say enough about how wonderful the lions club has been to us.”