The August civic holiday is over for another year. In the context of Manitoba’s holidays, the first Monday in August has for decades been a holiday without a name, unlike Louis Riel Day. But not next year, as the Manitoba government has announced it will introduce a bill this fall to officially call the August civic holiday after Manitoba-born Marathon of Hope runner Terry Fox.
“Terry Fox did so much in the global fight against cancer,” said Premier Greg Selinger, when announcing the legislation to create Terry Fox Day. “He was not only an inspiring individual but a true pioneer. Now when people are enjoying a holiday with their friends and family, they will remember the amazing man who inspires so many.”
It’s an appropriate decision to name the holiday after the one-legged man, who did inspire a nation while attempting to run from coast-to-coast to raise money for cancer research.
Fox has been locally recognized in the past for his contributions as a native son of Winnipeg. A sculpture of Fox is now on display in the Formal Garden at Assiniboine Park, following his 2010 induction into the WinnipegREALTORS®-established Winnipeg Citizens Hall of Fame. Fox was the 37th inductee into the hall of fame.
During the special ceremony marking his induction, Betty Fox said her son was only able to run his Marathon of Hope as far as he did because he came from strong prairie and Winnipeg stock enhanced by a streak of stubbornness.
It is a sentiment that was expressed 34 years ago by Terry’s uncle Rod in a Free Press column entitled, Terry Fox from ‘Stubborn’ Winnipeg Stock, by Don Blanchard. The columnist was a friend of Rod and Terry’s father Rolly, who grew up together in Transcona.
“We’re stubborn, the Foxes,” Rod told Blanchard, days after Terry’s Marathon of Hope ended just outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario, and the runner sat in a Vancouver hospital bed due to a recurrence of the cancer which had three and one-half years earlier claimed a leg. “I’d even go as far to say we’re pig-headed.
“I knew nothing was going to stop him unless it was the Big C ... Nothing else would have stopped him,” added Rod.
Upon receiving the special induction award on behalf of her son, Betty, who was born in Boissevain and raised in Melita, said Terry was eagerly anticipating his arrival in Winnipeg in 1980, which would “have been a huge boost to Terry.”
But the recurrence of cancer on September 2 stopped Terry just two weeks short of reaching the city where he spent the first eight years of his short life before the family moved to British Columbia.
Actually, Betty said Terry would have run as far as Regina if he had not lengthened his Marathon of Hope in Nova Scotia and Ontario due to public demand for him to travel to communities not included on Terry’s original route, which added another 1,450 kilometres to his run.
Rolly told the audience at the hall of fame ceremony that he still remembers Terry’s excitement as he approached the Manitoba border. “Dad, I’m looking so much forward to running into Winnipeg.”
Speaking on behalf of the many members of the Fox family at the induction ceremony, Betty said, “We know Terry would have been honoured to be a member of the Citizens Hall of Fame.”
At the ceremony, Mayor Sam Katz said Terry was “a very special individual who showed courage far beyond what any one of us can imagine. He left a lasting impression on young and old ... It’s a phenomenal legacy Terry has left to us.”
Directly addressing the Fox family, Katz said the hall of fame is a “very special place to honour special people ... we’re extremely proud that you and Terry spent time in our community. Whether you like it or not, you are part of Winnipeg.”
Norma Currie, who nominated Terry for induction into the hall of fame, said the runner was the person she admires most in the world.
“Terry Fox ran a marathon a day (26 miles) every day of the week for more than 4 2⁄3 months on one leg, through every kind of weather imaginable, across Canada’s rough and diversified terrain, up and down huge hills,” said Currie. “He was blown off the road at times by semi-trailers ... He had one growth the size of a lemon in one lung and one lump the size of a golf ball in the other for at least part of the run.”
Before being sidelined by cancer, Terry had run 5,370 kilometres.
“I still get tears in my eyes when I hear his story,” she added.
“He’s an exemplary role model for our children in Canada and across the world.”
Surrounded by family at his bedside, Terry died on June 28, 1981, one month before his 23rd birthday. He became a national folk hero and a symbol of hope and courage for all cancer patients, as well as the fund-raising force behind finding a cure for all types of cancer.
His hero status rose as the media picked up the story of the persistent young man who had one leg and needed a slim prosthetic tipped by an athletic shoe on his remaining leg in order to hop-skip in his unique gait from Newfoundland into Ontario. It was his unique and obviously difficult style of running which exemplified to Canadians his determination to complete his Marathon of Hope from the Atlantic to the Pacific, regardless of the hurdles placed along his path.
As his fame grew, Terry was greeted by steadily increasing throngs of people wanting to pay tribute to his grit and show their support for his cause.
Even as Terry lay in his hospital bed, as the result of the cancer spreading to his lungs, the country united in its determination to honour the tenacious Canadian by instituting a run to raise funds for cancer research. The annual Terry Fox Run, which is now a world-wide annual event, has raised over $500 million for cancer research.
“Terry taught us all that dreams can come true and even the impossible is possible,” said Currie.
Admiration for his son transcends politics and has even reached Communist Cuba, added Rolly, where two million people participated in a run in his memory in March 2010. “They actually think Terry belongs to them.”
“Terry has passed the torch to us, his family and all Canadians” said Betty, “so that one day a cure for cancer can be found.
“During the Marathon of Hope, Terry never wavered in his commitment to make a difference in someone else’s life,” she added. “As a result, people continue to believe that each of us can continue to make a difference — all you have to do is keep on trying.
“Terry’s inspiration is as important today as it was a year after his marathon.”
In the context of what he accomplished and his continuing legacy, it’s appropriate that the August civic holiday be called Terry Fox Day.