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Terrance Stanley "Terry" Fox, CC (July 28, 1958 – June 28, 1981) was a Canadian humanitarian, athlete, and cancer treatment activist. He became famous for the Marathon of Hope, a cross-Canada run to raise money for cancer research, which Fox ran with one prosthetic leg. He is considered one of Canada's greatest heroes and is celebrated internationally every September as people participate in the Terry Fox Run, the world's largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research.

In 2004, Terry Fox was voted 2nd place on The Greatest Canadian.


Terry Fox was born in Winnipegmarker, Manitobamarker, Canada to Rolly and Betty Fox. He was raised in Vancouvermarker, British Columbiamarker and then moved to the family home on Morrill Street in Port Coquitlammarker, British Columbiamarker, with his older brother Fred, his younger brother Darrell, and his sister Judith.


Four things were evident about him; first, he loved sports of all kinds - soccer, rugby union, baseball, and diving. Second, he was not tall; hence he had to work harder than the bigger kids. Third, he was extremely competitive. Lastly, he had a huge amount of determination. Fox's father, Rolly Fox, recalls that his son was very competitive in everything from board games to table hockey. Rolly notes that "if you were better than him at the start, he'd keep playing until he was better than you...It didn't matter what it was, he hated to lose."

In junior high school, Fox loved basketball and wanted to play guard on the Mary Hill Cobras team. He was only 5 feet tall at the time and mediocre at the game. In order to achieve his goal, he spent every day practicing his basketball skills. By grade ten, he was one of the best guards. In senior high school he was a starting guard for the Port Coquitlam Ravens. Thus, he achieved his goal because of his determination. In grade eight, Bob McGill, his physical education teacher suggested Fox should try out for cross country running. At that time, Fox completely had no interest in running but he started training anyway, because he had so much respect for his coach. Fox found the running exhausting but at the end, his coach praised his work ethic. And Fox kept that to the end of his days.

In his teenage years, he won numerous medals in diving and swimming competitions, and impressed many people with his stamina and endurance. Though many of his instructors encouraged him to stay with water sports and train professionally, instead he pursued his dream of becoming a physical education teacher. After graduating with honours from Port Coquitlam Senior Secondary School (which was later renamed Terry Fox Secondary School in his honour), he studied kinesiology at Simon Fraser Universitymarker in Burnabymarker, British Columbia. Fox was an active student at SFU and participated in a variety of on-campus clubs and groups.


On November 12, 1976, Fox was driving back home along Port Coquitlam's highway in his green 1968 Ford Cortina. He was distracted by a bridge construction site,and his car slammed into a half-ton truck. Nothing happened to the driver of the truck; Fox came out of the accident with only a sore right knee.


In 1977, after feeling pain in his right knee, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. This is a form of cancer that strikes men more than women, usually around ages ten to twenty-five. Very often the cancer starts at the knee, then works its way up into the muscles and tendons. At the time, the only way to treat his condition was to amputate his right leg several inches above the knee.

Fox believed that the injury from the 1976 crash had weakened his knee and made it more susceptible to cancer, although his doctors disagreed. The causes of osteosarcoma are not known.

Three years after losing his leg, the young athlete decided to run from coast to coast in order to raise money for cancer research. In creating the Marathon of Hope, his goal was to raise $1 from each Canadian citizen. In February 1979, Terry Fox began training for the Marathon of Hope by running one-quarter of a mile. By the conclusion of his preparation-training 14 months later, Fox had run 5,085 kilometres or 3,159.5 miles.

Ventricular hypertrophy

What is not commonly known is that Terry Fox also suffered from a heart condition called Left Ventricular Hypertrophy. Fox’s ventricular hypertrophy condition was different from that normally associated with athletes, because only his left ventricle, and not his whole heart, was enlarged. Because of this, one week before Fox was to start the Marathon of Hope, a heart specialist told him that there was a legitimate risk of Fox dying because of the exertion he would be putting his heart through. However, even though Fox was already experiencing the dangerous warning signs that were associated with his particular heart condition, such as shortness of breath, dizzy spells, and seeing double at times, he forged ahead with his plans anyway.

Canadian Cancer Society letter

Terry Fox began his quest to fight cancer with the Marathon of Hope by sending a letter to the Canadian Cancer Society on October 15, 1979.Here, Fox appealed for funding in order to fulfill his new goal. Fox wrote:

Fox composed a second letter to Imperial Oil, the Ford Motor Company, Adidas and several other companies "asking for gas, a vehicle, running shoes, and money respectively." Fox also sent other letters asking for grants to buy a running leg. Fox observed here that while he was grateful to be alive following his cancer treatment, "I remember promising myself that, should I live, I would rise up to meet this new challenge [of fundraising for cancer research] face to face and prove myself worthy of life, something too many people take for granted." With sponsors in place, the Marathon of Hope could now get underway.

Marathon of Hope

Fox began by dipping his right leg in the Atlantic Ocean at St. John'smarker, Newfoundlandmarker on April 12, 1980. He intended to dip it in the Pacific Ocean when he arrived in Victoria, British Columbiamarker. He also filled two large bottles with Atlantic Ocean water; his plan was to keep one as a souvenir and pour the other one into the Pacific. He also intended to fill another jug of water with water from the Pacific Ocean. He was going to run about 42 km (26.2 miles) a day, the distance of a typical marathon. No one had ever done anything similar to the task Fox was undertaking. While outside Ottawa, Ontario about 3,113 km into his Marathon of Hope, Fox said:
"...everybody seems to have given up hope of trying. I haven't. It isn't easy and it isn't supposed to be, but I'm accomplishing something. How many people give up a lot to do something good. I'm sure we would have found a cure for cancer 20 years ago if we had really tried."

Fox successfully navigated through Atlantic Canada, and Quebec before receiving a triumphant welcome in Ontario in July and August 1980. Crowds of people lined the streets of Toronto and in cities throughout Southern Ontario cheering him on. On July 11 1980, about 3,523 km into the Marathon of Hope in Toronto, Darryl Sittler presented Fox his NHL all-star team sweater and said: "I've been around athletes a long time and I've never seen any with his courage and stamina."

Fox was unable to complete his run, as his bone cancer had metastasized to his lungs. X-rays revealed that Fox's right lung had a lump the size of a golf ball and his left lung had another lump the size of a lemon. He was forced to stop the run on September 1, 1980, just north-east of Thunder Baymarker, Ontariomarker, after 143 days. He had run 5,373 km or 3,339 miles (roughly 23.3 miles per day) through Newfoundlandmarker, Nova Scotiamarker, Prince Edward Islandmarker, New Brunswickmarker, Quebecmarker, and Ontario.

Eight days after Terry Fox was forced to stop, the CTV television network organized a nationwide telethon in hopes of raising additional funds for the cause of cancer research; it proved so successful that $10.5 million was raised that day. Any celebrities within range of Toronto were invited to participate and many of the guests paid tribute to Fox; TV actor Lee Majors called him "the real Six Million Dollar Man". The campaigns were so successful that by February 1981, $24.17 million dollars had been raised and Terry Fox's dream of getting one dollar from every single Canadian for cancer research had been realized.


Terry Fox is today considered a national hero of Canada. He was named a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation's highest civilian honour, on September 18, 1980, by Edward Schreyer, Canada's then serving Governor-General. Schreyer travelled to Port Coquitlam to personally present the medal to Terry himself.( CBC Archive film).

In June 1981, Fox developed pneumonia, and on June 27, he went into a coma. He died on the 28th at 4:35 a.m., which was his favourite hour of running, a year after his legendary run, and exactly one month shy of his twenty-third birthday.( CBC Archive film) Flags were flown at half-staff on Canadian government buildings across Canada and overseas while tributes poured in to Terry Fox's family who retreated home to prepare for his burial. Canada's serving Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in his address before Canada's House of Commons said that Terry gave far more to his country than his country was able to give to him. Trudeau also noted that:
"It occurs very rarely in the life of a nation that the courageous spirit of one person unites all people in the celebration of his life and in the mourning of his death....We do not think of him as one who was defeated by misfortune but as one who inspired us with the example of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity."

On July 3, 1981, Terry Fox's funeral, which consisted of only 40 relatives and 200 invited guests that "reflected the restraint and simplicity he had shown in his life," was broadcast live on national television. He is buried in the Port Coquitlam cemetery, near his favourite lookout just outside the cemetery gates.

Terry Fox Run

The Terry Fox Run is run around the world every year to raise money for cancer research. It is non-competitive with no winners or awards, just people joining to raise money for cancer research. Schools all around also participate in the annual Terry Fox Run.

Steve Fonyo, a cancer survivor inspired by Fox, completed the full length of Fox's course in 1984 and 1985. Fonyo's left leg had been amputated.

In a public opinion poll, Terry Fox was voted the most famous Canadian of the 20th century. He was voted number two on The Greatest Canadian list.


His story is dramatized in the 1983 HBO TV movie The Terry Fox Story, which the Fox family has criticized for negatively depicting Terry Fox as having a fiery temper. In that film, he was portrayed by Eric Fryer, who won the Best Actor award at the 5th Genie Awards in 1984 for his portrayal.

In 2005, a new movie, titled Terry, was produced by the CTV television network. In that film, Fox was portrayed by Shawn Ashmore. Unlike Fryer, however, Ashmore is not himself an amputee; digital editing was used to superimpose a prosthesis over Ashmore's real leg.

Author Douglas Coupland also chronicled Fox in his 2005 book Terry - The Life of Canadian Terry Fox.

In 2010, ESPN will air a documentary about Fox titled Into the Wind. It is directed by NBA basketball player Steve Nash.

Popular culture

  • While Terry Fox was on his Marathon of Hope, a pop song was composed. "Run Terry Run" was performed by the Nancy Ryan's Singers.
  • British singer/songwriter Rod Stewart's 1981 album Tonight I'm Yours includes the song "Never Give Up On A Dream" (co-written with Bernie Taupin), a tribute to Terry's Marathon of Hope. Proceeds from the song went towards cancer research.
  • Eric Walters’ fictional book Run is about a troubled teenager who is inspired by a meeting with Terry Fox.
  • The late Bishop Daniel Hart, Bishop Emeritus of Norwich, Connecticutmarker, used the story of Terry Fox in his sermons for the Sacrament of Confirmation.
  • The story of Terry Fox was told in the U.S. as part of a Long Distance Dedication on the 11 April 1981 episode of the American Top 40 radio show.
  • A Garland for Terry for orchestra and narrator, commissioned by the Victoria Symphony, written by Canadian composer Harry Freedman with words by Miriam Waddington was premiered on March 23, 1986, narrated by Bruno Gerussi.
  • In an episode of King of the Hill, Hank Hill said "Why can't Bobby turn all that energy into something positive, like that boy with no legs who ran across Canada?"

Awards and honours

Terry Fox statue in Thunder Bay


Further honours are listed at The Terry Fox Foundation

Schools and buildings

  • Port Coquitlam Senior Secondary School was renamed Terry Fox Secondary School in 1986. This school was replaced with a new building in 1999 which retains the Terry Fox name, and also houses the Terry Fox Theatremarker. Across Canada, there are now numerous schools named in his honour including: Terry Fox Elementary School in Montreal, Quebec, Terry Fox Elementary School in Barrie, Ontario, Terry Fox Junior High School in Calgary, Alberta, Terry Fox Elementary School, Newmarket, Ontario, Terry Fox Elementary School in Abbotsford, British Columbia, and Terry Fox Elementary School in Bathurst, New Brunswick.
  • The Terry Fox Library in Port Coquitlam, a branch of the Fraser Valley Regional Library, was opened in honour of Fox in 1983. The library houses memorabilia of Fox and his run, including the artificial leg that Fox used during his marathon.
  • The track at Simon Fraser University is named 'Terry Fox Field' in his honour. A statue of Fox can be found within the Academic Quadrangle, as well as one his t-shirts that he wore in the north part of the AQ.
  • A pathway in St. Catharines, Ontario named 'The Terry Fox Trail' in his honour.
  • The track at Saskatoonmarker's SaskTel Sports Centre is named 'Terry Fox Track' in his honour.
  • The Track & Field stadium in Brampton, Ontario was named 'The Terry Fox Track & Field Stadium' in his honour.
  • The main gymnasium at East Northumberland Secondary School in Brighton, Ontario was dedicated to Terry Fox.
  • The Terry Fox Youth Centre in Ottawa. Houses of Encounters with Canada.
  • The Terry Fox Memorial Pool and Terry Fox Fitness Centre opened in his honour at The Mississauga Valley Recreation Centre in 1982.
  • The Terry Fox Laboratory at the British Columbia Cancer Research Centre, a well-known cancer research unit in Vancouver BC, Canada.
  • The Terry Fox Sports Complex in Sudburymarker is a municipally-owned baseball park adjacent to Collège Boréalmarker.
  • Terry Fox Public School in Barrie, Ontariomarker
  • Terry Fox Park & Outdoor Pool Cornwall, Ontariomarker

Streets and highways




  1. The legacy and the van live on Nova News, June 13, 2008
  2. Damian Inwood, "Terry Fox: 25 years; Celebrating his dream: a 12-page special section honouring the 25th Annual Terry Fox Run, The Province, Sunday September 18, 2005, p.B3
  3. Inwood, The Province, Terry Fox, p.B3
  4. [1]
  5. Inwood, The Province, Terry Fox, p.B2
  6. Leslie Scrivener, Terry Fox: His Story, McClelland & Stewart Ltd, New revised edition, 2000. p.63
  7. Scrivener, Terry Fox, 2000, p.63
  8. Inwood, The Province, Terry Fox, p.B7
  9. Marathon of Hope story excerpted from Scrivener's revised 2000 book on Terry Fox
  10. Scrivener, Terry Fox, 2000, pp.168 & 232
  11. Scrivener, Terry Fox, 2000, p.233
  12. Honours for Terry Fox
  13. Scrivener, Terry Fox, 2000, p.182
  14. Around the World; Canada televises funeral of Young Cancer Victim The New York Times, July 3, 1981

External links


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