NOTLers follow the footsteps of heroes at this year's Terry Fox Run

·3 min read

Terry Fox casts a long shadow through history, touching the lives of millions across Canada and inspiring legions of runners to lace up their shoes and continue his Marathon of Hope.

Professional comedian Joe Pillitteri runs in the shadow of the Canadian hero again this Saturday and will be joined by people from all across Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“Our goal this year is $60,000. I’d like to say that we’re going to do more than that,” Pillitteri said in an interview.

He has been raising money for the Terry Fox Foundation every year since 2008 after that year's recession put one of his new business prospects into jeopardy.

“I was in kind of a personal crisis,” he said.

Pillitteri was a stranger to anxiety and depression but he found himself asking, “Would this just be all better if I wasn't here and they didn't have to worry about this?”

At the time, though, one of his daughters was doing a school assignment on Terry Fox.

“And for whatever reason, Terry Fox, his story jumped out at me,” he added.

It reminded Pillitteri that “whatever our problems are, there's someone who's going through something worse.”

And life took a positive turn for him.

He's happy to say that Lakeview Vineyard Equipment survived the recession and prospered.

He swears he couldn’t have done it without the support of his family

“My wife and kids never stopped telling me they loved me,” he recalls.

His views on mental health have since changed.

“Shamefully, I kind of didn't believe that (mental health issues) actually existed,” he said.

Pillitteri has since become much more open about his own struggles with mental health.

He is not the only one inspired by Terry Fox.

When he was young, Sean Wright sustained a brain injury in a car crash. It has has made it difficult for him to retain information.

Wright works as a massage therapist today, but it took multiple stabs at his qualifying exam to get licensed.

He recalls that he was ready to give up on massage therapy after failing in his second year.

The supportive words of a teacher helped. “I've never seen anybody with your work ethic, your desire to do this and I hope you don't give up,” Wright said, paraphrasing the teacher.

He has been doing the Terry Fox Run since 2016 and has no intention of quitting.

He’s walked it, he’s biked it, he’s run it and this year he’s swimming it.

“The last piece of terrain left was water,” he said.

Wright has already reached his goal of raising $800 and thinks he can collect more on the day of the run.

Much like Terry Fox, he doesn’t believe in quitting in the face of adversity.

Wright advises people to use their negativity to push themselves further because self-doubt leads to failure.

“Stop focusing on the negative. We all can be negative, of course we can. There's another way. A better way,” he added.

Runners, walkers, bikers and movers of all types will get the chance to find a better way this Saturday at 9 a.m.

Runners will be lining up at Simcoe Park at King and Queen streets to show their support for Fox and raise money for cancer research.

Participants had raised $67,034 as of Wednesday, well on the way to the run's $80,000 goal.

Evan Loree, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report