Meet the Australian who's spreading the Terry Fox gospel Down Under

·3 min read
Matthew Reid, centre, was inspired by Terry Fox's story to raise money for children's charities in Australia. (submitted by Matthew Reid - image credit)
Matthew Reid, centre, was inspired by Terry Fox's story to raise money for children's charities in Australia. (submitted by Matthew Reid - image credit)

Matthew Reid is speaking quickly and passionately about Terry Fox over a hands-free cellphone as he pilots his work truck through Sydney on a winter day in Australia.

The question he's trying to answer: how exactly did a 53-year-old former heavyweight boxing champion on the other side of the world become a torch bearer for Canada's favourite son?

"Well, what happened is, I was 13 years old and I walked inside my house at the right time to see Terry Fox on our Wide World of Sports TV show," said Reid in a broad Australian accent.

"I sat there and watched the story and it was amazing! And then I went outside and forgot about it."

It took another 35 years for sustained inspiration to strike.

In 2014, Reid was reminded of Terry Fox through a Reader's Digest article and was seized by the idea that people in his country needed to know about Terry's indomitable spirit, and how after losing a leg to cancer, he set out to run across Canada in service to others and cancer research.

So, like his idol, Reid started running.

Terry Fox Foundation
Terry Fox Foundation

He first ran from Sydney to Melbourne in 2015, covering the almost 1,000 kilometre distance while spreading the Terry Fox story along the way. That effort raised $26,000 for Australia's Starlight Foundation for sick children.

'I think about him every day'

After that, Reid poured his passion into speaking at schools and organizing Terry Fox community runs.

"I think about him every day. I think about how I can improve things in the sense of using Terry as an inspiration for Aussie kids," he said.

"It makes me very emotional, the sight of him running, putting his body on the line ... It's about persistence, being determined, never giving up, thinking about others before yourself and working through duress, like Terry did."

In 2017, Reid came to Canada to learn more about the Terry Fox school curriculum and to meet members of the Fox family.

Fred Fox, Terry's older brother, said he supports Reid's efforts and is especially pleased the story is being shared with Australian school children.

John Robertson/CBC
John Robertson/CBC

"It's really cool that Matthew ... is single-handedly kind of spreading the Terry Fox gospel," said Fox, manager of supporter relations with the Terry Fox Foundation.

Fox said there are others like Reid organizing Terry Fox events in places like Qatar, Hong Kong, Brazil and the United Arab Emirates.

It speaks, he said, to his brother's enduring impact. To date, the Terry Fox Foundation has raised over $850 million for cancer research.

'We all carry Terry's story'

"We all carry Terry's story even though it's 41 years old. It never changes, it's inspiring and Terry never gets older. He's always going to be that 21-year-old kid that was running across Canada."

submitted by Matthew Reid
submitted by Matthew Reid

June 28 is the 40th anniversary of Terry Fox's death. Fred Fox plans to visit his gravesite in Port Coquitlam and expects many others will as well.

Reid, meanwhile, is in the thick of planning his next Terry Fox-inspired event: a 300 kilometre walk from his son's high school to the Canadian High Commission in Canberra to raise money for a children's hospital in Sydney.

He's hoping Australian and Canadians will back his efforts, if not with a donation then with support and goodwill that will keep Terry Fox's far-reaching legacy alive and thriving.

"I just think he should be held in the same esteem here that he is in Canada," said Reid. "I want to show that no matter where you're from, you can always be touched in your heart by something incredible."