Terry Fox and his fight for cancer research lives on

·4 min read

Cancer impacts us all. We all know someone who has it, beat it, or who has succumbed to it. We all know the name Terry Fox, the legendary Canadian athlete, humanitarian and cancer research activist who taught us the power of humility. To raise money and awareness for cancer research, Fox embarked on an east-to-west coast trek called the Marathon of Hope, in 1980, starting in St. Johns, Newfoundland. His right leg had been amputated due to osteogenic sarcoma, more commonly known as bone cancer.

Fox’s journey inspired the nation. After incredible 5,373 km his marathon came to an end just outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario, 143 days after he started.

Fox’s quest cut his own life short but his fight has continued to live on since the inception of the annual Terry Fox Run, which commenced months after Fox’s death in 1981. He showed the world that anything is possible if you try.

Since then, the Terry Fox Run has been a staple in cities and communities of all sizes across the nation each September. The yearly event never skipped a beat for 38 years until the recent pandemic; 2019 was the last year for many live events. The Invermere Terry Fox Run, organized by Terri Lightfoot, was no exception.

“Covid had a huge impact on the run. For the last two years, the Terry Fox Run was a virtual event which we called One Day, Your Way. Registration was low in 2020,” said Donna Scheffer who has been the co-coordinator of the last six events held in Invermere. “It is my hope that since no live run happened these past two years, participation will be up. I feel it is so very important to have a live run again this year, not only for community spirit, but also to keep Terry's dream alive of putting an end to cancer.”

The 2019 Invermere run had 116 registered participants and 12 volunteers. This year the Invermere Terry Fox Run is back with the theme, ‘I'm not a quitter!’. It is open to everyone in the Columbia Valley, as the next closest sites for this special event are in Cranbrook and Golden. This year’s Invermere Terry Fox Run will take place the morning of Sept. 18 at J.A. Laird Elementary School which is located on the unceded territories of the Secwépemc and Ktunaxa peoples and the land chosen as home by the Métis peoples of British Columbia (BC). Those who choose to participate will not be limited to running but can walk, cycle, or even rollerblade; whatever they prefer.

“The course is as long as you want it. We will have distance markers laid out, starting at J. A. Laird. They will go up 13th Ave, which becomes Westside Road to Castlerock community road and beyond, said Scheffer. “Participants can choose their own distance of one, three, five or even 10 kilometers (km), whatever they are comfortable doing.”

Once affiliated with the Canadian Cancer Society, the Terry Fox Run had operated under The Terry Fox Foundation for cancer research, founded in 1988. It was 11 years later, in 1999, that Scheffer registered for the first time as a participant. She knew then she wanted to be more involved but didn’t make the move to Invermere from Trail, B.C. until 2005.

“I didn't realize there was a run in Invermere until three years later as it is so low-key. I knew that I had to get more involved, besides just gathering pledges and registering for the run,” said Scheffer. “It became my mission to provide more education, as there are many who believe that the Terry Fox Run is still affiliated with the Canadian Cancer Society. I am passionate about creating awareness through posters, lawn signs, banners, and events such as the annual Terry Fox Charity BBQ each summer. It is always my goal to increase participation. I get very excited when new participants come out, and when they invite family and friends to join them!”

The 2022 Invermere Terry Fox Run is a free event with no registration fee. Donations to the Terry Fox Foundation are encouraged but not required. In 2019 the last live run in Invermere raised $10,336.00 which does include what the schools raised with their own events during school hours in the month of September.

Sgt. Darren Kakuno, detachment commander, Columbia Valley RCMP, participated and ran with a group of family members in 2019. He has thrown down the gauntlet by challenging all first responders to participate this year. For all who are up to his challenge or want to get involved and help make a difference, register online at terryfox.org

“My hope for the morning of September 18, is to see more participants than in previous years,” said Scheffer. “I hope that those in attendance will take away the inspiration that has been left through the memory of Terry Fox and the realization that one person can make a difference, they just need to try and not be a quitter.”

Chadd Cawson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer