Lessons in determination were passed on to Red Deer students on Friday, when Terry Fox’s brother Fred Fox and endurance kayaker Stéphane Pilon spoke at Don Campbell Elementary School.
Both men shared personal stories about how they were influenced by Terry Fox as a kick-off to the annual Terry Fox Runs, which will be held on Sunday, Sept. 16.
Fred Fox is 14 months older than his late brother, who he described as being “just an ordinary kid,” with a passion for sports. “He wasn’t the best, or the biggest athlete, but he realized he had to work harder than anybody — and he wasn’t afraid to fail.”
He became a national hero in 1980 when he attempted to run across Canada with one leg to raise money for cancer research. Terry Fox ran a marathon a day with a prosthetic right leg starting from Newfoundland. When he got to Thunder Bay, ON., he was hospitalized after his bone cancer returned.
He died from it at age 22 in June, 28 1981 after receiving a Companion to the Order of Canada for his achievements — which have inspired annual fundraising Terry Fox Runs in countries around the world.
Fred credited their mother, the late Betty Fox, for instilling in them the notion they had to finish whatever they started.
A combination of stubborn determination and unwillingness to quit served Terry well as a school athlete. Fred recalled that Terry “took it as a challenge” when a school basketball coach told him he was too small and unskilled to make the team. He never quit practicing, and became team captain before graduating high school in 1976.
While at Simon Fraser University, Terry was sidelined by a pain in his knee that he thought was a sports injury. He got the devastating cancer diagnosis and his right leg had to be amputated above the knee. He was just 18.
“The folks in rehab had never seen anyone as determined as Terry” — to not only learn to walk on the artificial leg, but to run with it, said Fred.
His empathy for other cancer patients led him to start his fundraising run across Canada, sparking the Marathon of Hope fundraiser that’s now run annually in 50 countries around the world.
Fred thanked the Red Deer students for their efforts to raise money while taking part in the local Terry Fox Runs, which have raised $223,000 over the years. And he encouraged the children to strive to reach their own dreams.
Pilon, a Red Deer businessman who completed the 715 km World’s Longest Paddle Race on the Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson City, was only three when Terry Fox died, but his story has inspired him all of his life.
The 2017 river race, in which Pilon participated with the names of people with cancer written on his kayak, required an exhausting three-day paddle, but Pilon did it in memory of Terry Fox, raising $7,000 for cancer research.
He also told the students anything is possible with enough determination.