Thirty-two and counting

Susan Flanagan
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Annual Terry Fox Run shows no signs of getting old

Ryan Flanagan participated in the Terry Fox Run in Terry’s hometown in 2006. Note the participant wearing roller blades in the background. — Submitted photo

Labour Day weekend we stopped in Carbonear on our way to the cabin. As we sat in the grass licking ice cream cones with the fall sun smiling down on us, my daughter pointed out a lawn sign on the main road announcing the annual Terry Fox Run.

Labour Day weekend is the indicator that Terry’s run is just a fortnight away. Time to clear the calendar for Sunday morning, Sept. 16.

For some, that means going to church Saturday evening or making sure the gardening gets done the day before so they can join millions of others in  remembering Terry Fox and the awareness he brought to the need to find a cure for cancer.

“Somewhere the hurting must stop,” is what Terry said after witnessing young children on the cancer ward.

Three decades later, there are still children and adults hurting on cancer wards.

Meet you there

So what are you doing Sunday at 11 a.m.?

My family and I will be down at the King George V soccer complex at the head of Quidi Vidi Lake to participate in the 32nd annual run.

Last year, more than 38 N.L. communities hosted a Terry Fox Run and more than $260,000 was raised for cancer research in this province alone.

I’ve been running for Terry for 30 years. I ran my first Terry Fox Run on Sept. 19, 1982. The certificate — which I still have, being the pack rat I am — says it was a 10-kilometre course, but I don’t remember the route. I also don’t remember if there was a Terry Fox Run in St. John’s in 1981, the year it all started. If anyone can remember running it, you’ll have to write and let me know where it was and how many people were in attendance.

We all know about Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope that saw him run the equivalent of a marathon a day for 143 days in a row. (To put that figure in perspective, my husband and I are proud of our efforts to run one marathon a decade; if we can barely get through 26 miles once every 10 years, imagine running 26 miles every day on a prosthetic leg.)

So yes, we all know the gargantuan feat performed by Fox, but you may not know how the Terry Fox Run got to be such an organized event, taking place on the same day across this country as well as hundreds of others worldwide.

It’s all thanks to a Toronto businessman named Isadore Sharp, who lost a son to cancer. Sharp, who is founder of the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, first invited Terry to stay at one of his hotels in Montreal during the Marathon of Hope. Later, when Terry had to give up his run in Thunder Bay, Sharp contacted him to ask what he thought about an annual run in his name to raise money for cancer research. Terry was on board as long as there was no corporate sponsorship, one of the first things he insisted on for his Marathon of Hope.

Terry had already turned down endorsements from major companies to sponsor the Marathon of Hope. Money from these companies would have made life a lot easier for Terry and his friend and support van driver, Doug Alward, on the road. But Terry felt that corporate logos and advertising would detract from his message.

To this day, no company names or logos are seen on any Terry Fox Run promotional material. Can you imagine any other charity-run shirt without the names of corporate sponsors emblazoned on the back?

On Sept. 13, 1981, people gathered in 760 sites across Canada for the first annual Terry Fox Run. Since then, the run has become a staple on the second Sunday following Labour Day. It has become popular in countries as unlikely as Cuba, where millions of local people, many of whom are not well off, have adopted Terry as their own and run in his honour.

Terry’s dream of raising a dollar for every Canadian has been more than realized. To date, more than $500 million has been raised for cancer research in Terry’s name. Most of this money has come through the Terry Fox Run, as well as the ever- popular school version of this event. Two hundred schools in this province participated in the run last year.

If your school doesn’t have a Terry Fox Run and would like to, email the provincial co-ordinator of the Terry Fox Foundation, Heather Strong, at

“With no entry fees, no minimum pledge amounts and a non-competitive, all-inclusive approach, participation could not be easier,” reads the promotional material.

And that’s true. We usually ride our bikes for the “Run.” You can propel yourself however you like. Roller blades, skateboards, bikes, wheelchairs. You can walk to the boat house and back or you can run around the Lake 10 times on the road. It’s your choice.

You can donate the contents of your penny bank. Or you can donate $100. Any amount is gratefully accepted. And you can rest assured that 84 cents out of every dollar raised will go to cancer research. You can check out the website for a more detailed breakdown of how the money is used (

And even if you have no money to give, you can still come show your support by just being there.

You’ll see red-shirted members of Terry’s Team made up of those who have battled cancer. You’ll see members of MUN varsity teams donating their time to help out. You’ll see whole families coming out together to help eradicate cancer.

So, if you’re in St. John’s on Sept. 16, come on down to the lake. Various Flanagan offspring will be selling merchandise at a table just inside the gate of King George V stadium. Come by and say hello.

Susan Flanagan, a writer and mother of five living in St. John’s, just learned that in 2001, a Ty Beanie Baby named Issy was produced in honour of Isadore Sharp’s son, Christopher, who died from melanoma. Proceeds from sales of the toy went to the Terry Fox Foundation. If anyone has this Beanie Baby, send a photo and I’ll put it in next week’s column. Susan can be reached at

Organizations: Four Seasons Hotels, Terry Fox Foundation

Geographic location: Carbonear, Quidi Vidi Lake, Toronto Montreal Thunder Bay Canada Cuba

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