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Event commemorates historic run

Organizers honour Betty Foxs memory
Kyle Wells

Thousands of people in communities across Canada will be lacing up their shoes and heading out on Sunday, September 18 to celebrate a historic run and raise money for cancer research, all in the name of Terry Fox.

Taking place for the 31st year, the run commemorates Terry’s legendary Marathon of Hope in 1980, when he attempted to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. Terry, an avid athlete who lived in Port Coquitlam, had a leg amputated in 1977 at 18 years old due to a rare form of cancer. His experience inspired him to undertake the Marathon of Hope, which was unfortunately cut short when, after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres, he had to stop because of chest pain. His cancer had returned and spread to his lungs, forcing him to give up the marathon. He died on June 28, 1981.

According to information from the Terry Fox Foundation, the survival rate for most major types of cancer has increased significantly since the early 1970s and for some forms, such as prostate cancer, have nearly doubled. To date the foundation has raised over $550 million for cancer research worldwide. With all the money contributed, about 87 cents per dollar goes directly into cancer research.

“We feel very strongly that this kind of research money has done an awful lot to promote treatment and patient care,” said Powell River run organizer Ted Rodonets.

Every year communities hosting the run honour a member of the community who has fought cancer by declaring them as a Terry’s Team Member. This year newly retired teacher and cancer survivor Leslie Paul has been honoured with the title and will be at the run to promote the cause and help to put a face to the issue.

Paul, 57, was diagnosed with cancer around Christmas in 2009 and underwent radiation, surgery and chemotherapy until September 2010 when her cancer went into remission. Having led a healthy life, many, Paul included, did not see her as the type to get cancer so young. But as Paul has come to realize, it can happen to anyone, at any time.

“Research helps and I’m glad it’s been there because it certainly was of a benefit for me personally,” said Paul. “Not that I ever expected to be a recipient of it but you just never know and that’s the thing.”

The local community run typically brings in between $14,000 to $18,000 alone. Texada Island hosts its own school and community run to help the cause and, along with school runs, the entire region usually raises a total of between $20,000 to $35,000.

Schools in Powell River will be hosting their own Terry Fox runs at around the same time as the community run. Money from school runs makes up a substantial part of funds collected throughout the country.

This year’s run will also be the first since the death of Betty Fox, Terry’s mother, early in June of this year at age 73. Since Terry’s death, Betty had carried on his cause and acted as the face of the Terry Fox Foundation, even being honoured with the role of one of the flag-bearers at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Betty visited Powell River a number of years ago, said Rodonets, and spoke to children at Oceanview Middle School. Rodonets, a former teacher, said he had never seen students behave so well as they did when Betty spoke to them about her son and his legacy.

Participants are invited to run, walk or cycle either a 10 or a 3.5 kilometre route, both of which start from the Powell River Recreation Complex at 10 am. Registration for the race begins at 8:30 am, but participants can also register and submit pledges online. There is no registration fee and no minimum pledge for the run. A pancake breakfast will follow the run, provided by Save On Foods.

Rodonets wants to make especially clear the fact that people who want to participate shouldn’t feel like they have to donate any money that day. If they have already given money to their children for a school run or have donated online or are only able to support the run through participation, there will be no pressure to donate the day of the run.

“I really believe the Terry Fox thing gives people the opportunity to do something for people having treatment or who are past it,” said Rodonets. “Sometimes a community effort is a psychological support too and I think that’s really important to people.”