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Terry Fox: A Marathon Of Hope Leaves Behind An Enduring Legacy

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Quote And Photo Of Terry Fox

One of Terry Fox’s many inspirational quotes.

This year mark’s the 35th anniversary of Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope. Arguably Canada’s best known citizen, and one of our country’s most cherished heroes, Terry began his journey across Canada on April 12, 1980 in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and the journey ended on September 1, 1980 in Thunder Bay, Ontario, with the discovery that Terry’s cancer (osteogenic sarcoma) had spread to his lungs.

Sadly, Terry passed away on June 28, 1981, but his legacy continues with over 650 million dollars raised to support cancer research in his name. That’s an incredible amount of donations considering it was Terry’s goal to receive a donation of only $1.00 for every Canadian in 1980 – $24 million dollars.

“Today is the day it all begins” ~ Terry Fox, April 12, 1980

Marathon of Hope Jug of water from the Atlantic Ocean at St. John's

Marathon of Hope Jug of water from the Atlantic Ocean at St. John’s, Newfoundland

I remember with great pride and fondness being a 12-year-old who was so excited when Terry and his Marathon of Hope passed through Toronto that year. Every television news report, and every newspaper, featured Terry and his hobbled run. At school, our teachers encouraged us to write letters and draw photos so that we could send them to Terry for encouragement.

Terry Fox Prosthetic Leg

One of the prosthetic legs Terry Fox wore during the Marathon of Hope

As I watched Terry run through the streets of Toronto, as a young teen, it wasn’t the fact that he was fighting a deadly disease that caught my attention, nor was it the fact that he was planning on running all the way across Canada. It wasn’t even the huge number of donations to cancer research that started to pour in that captivated me. I was simply awestruck by the fact that Terry was showing off his disability for all to see – wearing short-cut Adidas shorts that showed off most of his prosthetic leg. While that doesn’t seem like such a big thing these days, it sure was in 1980, and it sure was to me – the girl who hid her own disability any which way she could.

Words to describe Terry and his Marathon of Hope

Words to describe Terry and his Marathon of Hope

So now, in 2015, as we mark the 35th Anniversary of Terry’s famous marathon, the Canadian Museum of History here in Ottawa is celebrating Terry’s life and accomplishments by featuring Terry Fox in their exhibit “Running To The Heart Of Canada”, which runs until January 3, 2016.

Terry Fox's socks and Adidas running shoes

Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope running shoes and socks

Terry’s mother, Betty Fox, had the insight to know that Terry’s personal items, and the mementos collected from his cross-country marathon, would one day hold great value to Canadians. She could not have been more correct.

Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope Sock

Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope Sock

I was invited by the Canadian Museum of History to view the “Running To The Heart Of Canada” exhibit. I had read so much about Terry over the years and thought I knew all there was to know about the “public” Terry. I didn’t. My visit taught me a whole lot more about the “public” Terry, and even gave me a peek into the private life of this Canadian hero.

“I had the most inspirational day of my life today.” ~ Terry Fox (after spending the day with 10-year-old Greg Scott who lost his leg to the same cancer as Terry)

This Terry Fox exhibit touches on some of the most personal aspects of the Marathon of Hope including Terry’s drive to train for what was to be an extraordinary run, and his strong desire to keep all publicity focused on raising money for cancer research – and not on his newly found celebrity status. Despite the fact that companies like Ford, GM, and Adidas had their logos proudly displayed on things like the Marathon of Hope van, and the athletic clothing that Terry wore, Terry refused to allow these companies to tout their involvement. Terry wanted all focus on donations to cancer research.

Ford Canada's Marathon of Hope Van

Ford Canada’s Marathon of Hope van

Thanks to Terry’s mom, Betty Fox, this exhibit is full of fascinating memorabilia collected by Terry, as well as items sent to Terry by Canadian fans and supporters from across the country. In fact, there are so many items in the Marathon of Hope collection of memorabilia, the Canadian Museum of History couldn’t possible display it all, so they had to pick and choose some of the best items.

Just a few of the items sent to Terry Fox from his supporters

Just a few of the items sent to Terry Fox from his supporters

I remember being in school and being asked to write a letter or draw a photo for Terry prior to his arrival in Toronto. Turns out, all the thousands of letters and drawings that kids sent to Terry during his Marathon of Hope were kept in the collection saved by Betty Fox. Amazing. Even more amazing is that the Canadian Museum of History has logged some of these items into an interactive display in their exhibit so visitors can have the chance to find something they may have sent to Terry 35 years ago. Sadly, I couldn’t find mine, so I did the next best thing…


I wrote a note to Terry telling him why he is so important to me, and left it on this public display.

What did I tell him? I can’t say. That’s private between me and Terry <3.

“To me, the only important part about the publicity is, ‘cancer can be beaten’ and the Marathon of Hope” ~ Terry Fox

The Terry Fox “Running To The Heart Of Canada” exhibit is a powerful, poignant, goosebump-inducing display of every ounce of courage, determination, guts, energy, and strength that Terry put into his Marathon of Hope – and his fight with cancer.

This is a MUST-SEE exhibit for anyone who remembers “being there” during the Marathon of Hope days, or anyone who has ever run and raised money in Terry’s name. You will NOT leave this exhibit without learning something new about Terry, and without being moved (maybe even to tears) when you discover everything Terry went through to make his amazing accomplishment possible. I guarantee, you will be left feeling SO proud that this worldly hero was Canadian.

Never before has a museum exhibit left me feeling so full of emotion as the Canadian Museum of History’s “Running To The Heart Of Canada”.

Go see it. Just GO!


Please visit their website for more information on the Terry Fox “Running To The Heart Of Canada” exhibit at the Canadian Museum of History. For all the latest on the Terry Fox Run, please visit the Terry Fox Foundation’s website.

A huge thank you to the Fox family for allowing all of these treasured items of Terry’s to travel across Canada so that many Canadians can view them…and feel just a little closer to Terry. 






Disclosure: Canadian Blog House received a complimentary pass to visit this exhibit. All opinions are our own.

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