BFTP #4 - Legacy of Terry Fox
Type: news story
For: Coquitlam Now current affairs
Written: September 2004 (grade 10)
“He was an ordinary person who chose to do extraordinary things.” That was how Mr. Fichter summed up our interview on Terry Fox one day after school. The school’s principal appeared slightly regretful as he told me a story of when he had coached his Mission High School basketball team against a junior team from Hastings Jr. High, led by a point guard named Terry Fox. “We were dominating,” Mr. Fichter said, with a hint of a smile on his face. “We were bigger, faster, better. We pretty much owned the game, owned the other team. Except for this one kid, a point guard, named Terry Fox. Boy. He knew where his teammates were all the time, and he knew how to get them the ball. What a leader. He wasn’t particularly tall. He had no great offensive skills. But his defense? Tenacious. Tenacious, tenacious. He never backed down, never gave an inch against any of the six-foot monsters I had on my team.”
That’s how Terry is remembered today. As a person who never quit. Even when his junior team was severely outmatched in a high school basketball game. Even when he had his right leg amputated in 1977 due to cancer. Even when he was feeling pain in his stomach and chest during his 143 days of consecutive running, 42 kilometers a day, everyday, to raise money for cancer research. And even when he was diagnosed with lung cancer on September 1st, 1980. He died 10 months later.
On Friday Sept. 16th, Charles Best Secondary took part in a historic event. The entire school, 1380 staff and students, participated in the 25th annual Terry Fox Run. On this day, the goal was that every school in Canada, both private and public, would participate in the run. The emphasis on the event isn’t how much money the school raises, but that every student participated and contributed to Terry’s dream. As Terry said in 1980, “If you’ve given a dollar, you’ve participated in the Marathon of Hope.”
The turnout was phenomenal, with runs taking place all across the country. The school’s run was primarily organized and promoted by our tireless administration, Mr. Fichter, Mrs. Murray, Mr. Johnstone, and retired vice-principal, Mr. French. Some of the teachers involved included Ms. Howell, who was in charge of the running trails, Mr. Jones, who took care of marshalling, Mr. Ewert, who made sure none of the other staff members slacked on the run, and Mr. Hyde, who did all the work behind the scenes.
The day started out with students reporting to their homerooms, where teachers collected pledge forms and money that students had raised for the Terry Fox Foundation. The students were then asked to move to the big gym, where we were addressed by a guest speaker, Mr. Rich Chambers. Mr. Chambers is presently a counselor and basketball coach at Terry Fox Secondary School in Port Coquitlam, and as Mr. Fichter said, “He coached Terry, coached against Terry, met Terry, knew Terry.” After Mr. Chamber’s inspiring speech, the ever-popular Mr. Mushens came out and proceeded to do stand-up comedy for ten minutes as the student body exited the gym and began the run/walk in order of grade. The runners started off in waves on the 5km trail, while the walkers followed on the 2km trail.
The first runners to finish were the members of the senior girls volleyball team, who started their run early due to the fact that they had to leave for a tournament. As the other runners and walkers returned to school, they were greeted by loud music and enthusiastic Best Buddy Leaders, who handed out Terry Fox Run shoe tags and bottles of water. The shoe tags, which were given to all students and staff who completed their respective trails, were shaped in the resemblance of the Adidas sneaker that Terry chose to use during his Marathon of Hope. On the back, they read, “This shoe ran in the 25th Terry Fox Run.”
The high rate of student participation was due to the fact that students can relate to Terry Fox as he was not much older than us when he had his right leg amputated, and he was only 21 years old when he began his historic run. School-wide opinions on Terry Fox are very much alike. When asked what they thought of Terry Fox, Lexie Snowden and Shawna Campbell, two grade 11 students, answered, “We believe that Terry was a hero and that his legacy will live on forever.” Amira Tmar responded similarly, saying, “Terry Fox was an amazing person and his actions touched many Canadians,” whereas Jeff Taylor was a bit more blunt, simply stating, “He was a good guy. Raised some money and stuff.”
The fact of the matter is, Terry Fox didn’t just raise some money. He raised a lot of money. Some students in our school don’t seem to understand just how much Terry has done for cancer research. When asked how much he thought had been raised by the Terry Fox Foundation so far, a grade 9 student who shall remain unnamed replied, “I dunno. A couple hundred thousand, maybe?” On the other hand, Amy Belanger of grade 11 jokingly answered, “Katrillions!” While not as extreme as either of these two answers, the Terry Fox Foundation has raised an incredible $360 million dollars for cancer research worldwide, as over 50 countries take part annually in the Terry Fox Run.
Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope inspired a nation, and eventually the world, to rise to its feet and continue his mission to fight the sickness that affects so many of us. He has been honored in numerous ways, from the Order of Canada and the Terry Fox Memorial to having schools and a mountain named after him. But his greatest legacy is that every year in September, millions across our country and across the world take part in what has become an annual event to raise money for cancer research.
So who was Terry Fox? He was just an ordinary person. But he chose to do extraordinary things.