THUNDER BAY, Ont. — The Terry Fox Memorial is now the site of one of three plaques commemorating the Marathon of Hope.
Twenty-nine years ago Tuesday, Fox was forced to abandon his Marathon of Hope in this northwestern Ontario city when it was determined that the cancer that had claimed one of his legs had returned to his lungs.
After 143 days and 5,300 kilometres, he had become a national hero for attempting to run across Canada to raise awareness and money for cancer research.
To commemorate his marathon, Parks Canada unveiled the plaque describing the dream and accomplishments of Fox at the memorial just outside Thunder Bay. Among those in attendance were Fox’s parents Roly and Betty.
John Jennings, Ontario representative with the Monuments Board of Canada, listed many of Fox’s accomplishments, including realization of his dream to collect a dollar from every Canadian.
He was also the first non-royal person to be depicted on the dollar coin. He was voted Canada’s greatest hero in a national survey and he has schools, a mountain and a provincial park named after him.
But it’s the personal stories that highlight Fox’s legacy, like Jennings’s sister’s encounter with him.
“She was driving through Sudbury (Ont.) to visit me when I was teaching at Trent University and was asked to pull over for a man running a marathon,” Jennings said Tuesday. “She was waiting to shout words of encouragement, but when she saw his face she was struck silent. She said she had never seen a face with so much pain and determination in her life.”
Words of inspiration also came from Tory Tronud, director and curator at the Thunder Bay Historical Museum, and Kenora MP Greg Rickford.
Both agreed Fox’s legacy resonates across borders as a philanthropic individual who symbolized hope in the face of overwhelming odds, the definition of a classic hero.
Betty Fox said that every time the family drives through Thunder Bay they never forget the day Terry was forced to end his marathon. She said he wasn’t running for himself, but to unify the country so others wouldn’t have to endure what he experienced.
“His dream for a cure is still going,” she said. “He said he wanted to make an example no one would forget, but most importantly he raised the awareness of how devastating cancer can be to families and he passed the torch to us. He never wavered from his conviction that he could make a difference. ”
“To date over $450 million has been raised and Terry Fox Runs are held in more than 50 countries. This is proof people still believe in Terry and their dollars are making a difference.”
The family continues to receive letters thanking them for their hard work and sharing stories about the Terry Fox legacy’s impact.
“The most humbling story I heard was from a lady who called a radio station to say someone had placed a blanket on Terry’s statue during the winter.”
The other two plaques are to be unveiled in St. John’s, N.L., where the marathon started, and in Port Coquitlam, B.C., where Fox was raised.