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Commentary: Join in Terry's dream

Olds and area residents have supported the Terry Fox run since its inception
MVT Olds 2019 Terry Fox Run-1
Organizer Noel D'arcy leads participants in the 2019 Terry Fox Run for cancer research in Olds. File photo/MVP Staff

Forty-three years ago, a determined 21-year-old cancer survivor named Terry Fox dipped his prosthetic leg in the icy Atlantic at St. John’s, Newfoundland to mark the beginning of an ambitious plan to run across the country hoping to raise $24 million for cancer research – a dollar from every Canadian. He planned to complete the Marathon of Hope at in his home province on the Pacific shores at Vancouver.

The aggressive bone cancer temporarily halted by amputation, returned. It spread to his lungs and took his life at 22. Although Terry didn’t reach his destination, his spirit inspired and endured. The Marathon of Hope is the largest, world-wide, one-day cancer fundraiser. Nearly $1 billion has been raised for cancer research. Thanks to the research funded by his foundation, if Terry was diagnosed with the same bone cancer today, his leg would likely have been spared and there’s a good chance he’d have lived to celebrate his 65th this year.   

Terry’s cross-country journey had a quiet start. It took time to become newsworthy. This was a decades before the web, social media, instant celebrity and 24-hour access. Terry’s journey was shared and spread by newspapers, radio, television, payphones and the Marathon of Hope message emblazoned on Terry’s now iconic, and recently restored, 1980 Ford Econoline Van of Hope. The van, piloted by his brother Darrell and best friend Doug Alward, followed close behind. It offered security, sleeping quarters, food, and refuge from inclement weather.

Terry did the seemingly impossible – running an incredible marathon-a-day for 142 days on a rigid, primitive prosthetic that offered an awkward gait, raw skin and agony. Terry said the first 20 minutes were the worst until he adjusted to the pain.

Olds and area residents have supported the Terry Fox run since its inception. We’ve run walked, skated and cheered from the sidelines. We’ve endured snow, rain, heat and adjusted for pandemics. The Terry Fox faithful are never deterred.

This year’s event on Sunday, Sept. 17, is again organized by the Olds Fire Department with Mike Lipiec taking the lead. Registration starts at 10 a.m. The run starts at 11 a.m. with a five kilometre (km) and 10 km course that start and finish at the fire hall. It’s always well-marked, and volunteers will cheer you on and keep you safe.

Terry Fox and his foundation have always inspired me. I will be running the 10 km route like I have for more than 30 years. Pledge forms are available online. I can print some off at the Albertan office if you prefer.

Hope to see you Sunday.

Murray Elliott is the publisher of the Albertan.

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