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Pique N' Your Interest

Arguably our greatest Canadian

Even though I know how the story ends, it still makes me cry.

I know before I see the made-for-TV movie, I know before I see the Life and Times documentary, I know before I read the news stories at this time every year, I know I’m going to shed a tear or two.

We all know that Terry Fox, after months of running a marathon every day across Canada, eventually had to end his run at Thunder Bay. We know that Terry Fox was too sick to continue, that the cancer once confined to his leg, had spread to his lungs. And we know that Terry died of cancer less than a year after his Marathon of Hope was cut short. The fact that we know all these things doesn’t make his story any less compelling, any less sad, any less wonderful every year.

It’s not just the sadness of a young life coming to an untimely end that makes me cry.

It’s that Terry Fox was one of the greatest Canadians, I would in fact argue – the greatest Canadian – and his death, and his life, represents something extraordinary for every Canadian.

Last year the CBC ran an interactive series calling on Canadians to choose the Greatest Canadian. There were 10 extraordinary people on the list. Among them, Pierre Trudeau, John A. Macdonald, Frederick Banting, Tommy Douglas and of course Terry Fox.

Over the course of the series, we learned about each of these Canadians and their contributions to Canada and the world. At the end we were asked to vote.

I never vote on these things – Canadian Idol, American Idol, Rock Star INXS. I’m sometimes tempted but deep down, I really couldn’t care less.

But I took the time to vote for who I thought was the Greatest Canadian because I felt so strongly about it. I wanted Terry Fox to win. He came in second place behind the lesser-known Tommy Douglas.

Tommy who, you ask?

That’s Tommy Douglas, the father of our health care system. Douglas is a worthy choice to be sure, but this week, which marks the 25 th anniversary of Terry’s accomplishment, I am reminded again why I think Terry Fox is the greatest Canadian, beyond all others.

He makes me proud to be a Canadian.

It’s not often we get to say that – surely it’s not polite to be a proud Canadian. But seeing Terry Fox run with one leg in the early morning mist of Newfoundland, along the lonely roads of Quebec and then later alongside the cheering crowds of southern Ontario, it makes me swell with pride. It’s not just Terry and his commitment that makes me proud, it was the way the country responded to him.

Though it was tough at the beginning, it didn’t take long for this country to hold him up, give him a hero’s welcome wherever he went, and hope for him with all our hearts… and our wallets.

In less than a year Canada made Terry’s dream a reality by coming up with one dollar for every Canadian in his name. In the early 1980s that was more than $24 million. This isn’t just Terry’s story. It’s the story of a whole nation.

He makes me think nothing is impossible.

Surely it’s an impossible goal to run a marathon, a full 26 miles, every day, until you’ve run clear across the country. Surely that’s too hard. How could someone with one leg, who had beaten cancer, dare to dream so large? He carried on his journey through, at times, excruciating pain. He was only 21 years old. I often wonder how he found the will to keep going even at the darkest of hours. It came from unknown reserves of strength. He turned the seemingly impossible into a reality and that’s a lesson for all of us.

He created a lasting legacy for all of us.

Though he had raised a dollar for every Canadian before he died, Terry’s legacy lives on. Every year for the past 25 years there have been Terry Fox runs in communities across the country and beyond our borders to raise money for cancer research. Millions participate in more than 600 sites. To date more than $360 million has been raised in Terry’s name. It begs the question: how many thousands have been saved with that money?

That’s something to think about as we head into the annual Terry Fox run this Sunday. In Whistler the run will be held at the Riverside Campground. The run begins at 10 a.m. and participants can run, bike or walk the 10 km course or the 5 km course.

If you don’t want to participate in the run, you could think about donating money to the cause.

Terry Fox may not be the greatest Canadian to you but to me, he is a national hero who at one time in history, united a nation behind him, willing him on with their collective thoughts and believing, even if it was for just a moment, that anything is possible.