Terry Fox Deserves a Legacy That Will Last

“Somewhere the hurting must stop.” Terry Fox

Remember the days when as elementary and/or high school students we were made (forced?) to stand in front of our peers and speak about a topic we may have been passionate about? That was something I wish would return in this world of (un)social media. Sweaty palms, dry throat and the hope that you did not mix up your cue cards (for the younger readers, we actually wrote out our speeches long-hand on small lined cards that would fit in our hands. No I-pads!).

I have to say, I was a pretty decent public speaker (I actually was the class winner one year which meant I just had to speak in front of a larger audience in the school gym, leading to even sweatier palms and a drier throat;)). However, I recall in high school when I knew I was beat one year in the speech competition. I cannot even recollect the subject matter for my speech, nor do I recall my classmate’s name who had the winning speech. I just remember the topic, or should I say individual they chose to speak on… Terry Fox.

Fox needs a permanent and significant place in the psyche of all Canadians

Canadian notes of currency have been receiving a facelift recently and that transformation will continue over the coming months and years. The transformation began with the $10 bank note in 2018 with civil rights activist Viola Desmond becoming the first person who was not a monarch nor a dead politician to be the face of any denomination of Canadian currency. We now have a new monarch – King Charles III – who will adorn not only our coins but also the $20 bill.

Next in line is a redesign of the $5 bill. Canadians have known this has been coming for a number of years. The government has narrowed down the list of worthy candidates to ten. Among those, I believe that Terry Fox stands out above the others.

Every poll that I have read seems to support my belief. The people of Canada, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, province of residence, etc. etc., have spoken loud and clear. Terry Fox should be the new face on Canada’s $5 bill. With all due respect to the other candidates that have been put forth by the government, this is a no-brainer. Terry Fox crosses all cultural, social, political and economic lines. Why do I say this? Because cancer does not discriminate. The disease has touched young and old; male and female; wealthy and poor; people of all races and religions. Terry Fox shone a bright light on that fact when he undertook the seemingly impossible task of running across our vast nation – on one leg – during his Marathon of Hope.

Our world has become divided in many ways but I am old enough to recall when a curly-headed young man found a way to unite our country and captivate not only Canada but the world.

Terry’s goal was to raise awareness of the impact of a disease that took his right leg in 1977 at the tender age of 18. Just over three years later he was undertaking what most would perceive as the unfathomable – even on two legs. Fox would attempt to run across the entire country from Newfoundland to British Columbia. He would run the equivalent of one marathon (26.2 miles or 42.195 kilometers) every day!

Born in Winnipeg but raised in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Terry set specific goals for his seemingly impossible journey across Canada. First, he wanted to raise awareness of the toll cancer had taken not in his life but in the lives of Canadians (especially children) from coast-to-coast. He wanted to be the voice for all those touched by the disease. The second goal was to raise one single dollar for every Canadian man, woman and child. At the time Canada was a growing country that boasted a population of 24 million.

Ultimately, Canadians know the story did not end with Terry reaching his home province of British Columbia but instead ended on the Trans-Canada Highway near Thunder Bay, when cancer resurfaced in Terry’s body. I remember how heartbreaking it was to watch Terry be interviewed as he was being transported away on a gurney. His anguish at having his Marathon of Hope halted and the voice he had given all cancer victims seemingly silenced, came through loud and clear.

Despite the physical end to Terry’s run across Canada it was not the end to his impact on Canada – it was in fact the beginning. Canadians dug deep and helped Terry realize and surpass the goal of $24 million raised to support cancer research.

That was just the first chapter of a legacy that Terry has left for our nation long after he succumbed to cancer on June 28, 1981. To date the Terry Fox Foundation is closing in on $1 billion raised for cancer research. The Foundation website states that 10,000 events have contributed to 1,300 research projects. Over 60 nations have hosted Terry Fox runs over the past four decades.

Terry deserves a permanent place in Canada’s history that goes beyond a statue or plaque. Given how much money the foundation that bears his name has raised to combat the disease that took his life, nothing would be more fitting than to have Terry’s determined and courageous image staring back at all Canadians when they pull a fiver out of their wallet.

In the words of Terry “Even, if I don’t finish, we need others to continue. It’s got to keep going.”.

Amen.

One Dad With a Blog

author’s note: for those who want information on the ten candidates put forward by the Bank of Canada as finalists to appear on the $5 bill please click here https://www.bankofcanada.ca/banknotes/banknoteable-5/nominees/

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