Fred Fox, elder brother of Terry Fox, addresses PCHS student body with a powerful message
What Terry Fox lacked in athletic ability or smarts in the classroom, he more than made up for in determination.
Fred Fox should know. As his elder brother by 14 months, he spent a close childhood with the national icon.
They even wore matching clothes as kids, he joked, as he showed old family slides to teens assembled in the gymnasium of Port Colborne High School.
Fox, who on Sunday celebrated the 35th anniversary of Terry’s Marathon of Hope at its starting point in St. Johns Harbour, N.L., was making the rounds in the lakeside city Wednesday, with a stop also planned for Steele Street school.
During his Port High stop, Fox spoke of a brother who consistently showed perseverance at what he did, be it stacking building blocks on an uneven shag carpet in the living room as a small boy, or fighting to overcome his height challenge and playing ability to eventually become captain of his high school basketball team.
That same determination landed him a spot on the junior varsity team at Simon Fraser University, which he was attending in 1977 at age 18 when doctors discovered he had bone cancer in his right leg.
Ten days after amputation surgery, Terry was fitted with an artificial limb.
He pressed on, almost unfazed.
“Everything he did, he had to work a little harder than everyone else,” Fox said of his brother’s short life.
Fox said it was in the 18 months following his Terry’s surgery, often sharing waiting rooms with other cancer patients, many of them children, that his brother decided he could do more than anyone else.
He put in motion his plan to run across Canada to raise a million dollars for cancer research.
“Getting cancer made him a more caring person.”
And the nation saw that more an more with each step he took.
Terry’s journey that started on the East Coast in 1980 ended outside Thunder Bay on Sept. 1 of that year, after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres, when cancer had appeared in his lungs.
He died June 28, 1981, at age 22.
Today there are at least 14 schools across the country named for Terry. There are countless more statues.
Terry Fox runs are now held in more than 30 countries and to date have raised more than $700 million for research.
“You guys need to realize, you are truly making a difference,” Fox told Port High students before concluding his presentation with a message.
“Just like Terry, always set goals and never give up on your dreams.”
Fox, and his younger brother and sister, visit schools across the country to speak about Terry’s legacy, encourage students to do their best and to promote the fundraising runs.
“We never could have imagined that 35 years later it is what it is,” Fox said of what has come of his brother’s goal prior to addressing his audience.
“Terry was just like them,” he said as he looked towards the bleachers as students filed in for his 30-minute address.
Grade 11 student Logan Campbell said he participates in the Terry Fox Run to honour loved ones, friends and acquaintances affected by cancer.
“I’ve done it every year since I’ve been in school.”
Port Colborne’s communitywide Port Colborne Terry Fox Run takes place Sept. 20.
Last year’s run raised more than $16,000 — the second highest sum in the 20 years that the event has been held, said Nancy Salvage, who’s been organizing the event for the past 11 years.
Combined with funds raised by school runs, more than one dollar is raised annually for each resident of Port Colborne.
Salvage was appreciative Fox was able to fit local visits into his schedule this week.
“He’s a wonderful speaker and he has such a unique perspective on Terry Fox and the run,” she said.
“This is such a wonderful story.”