The Power of Terry Fox

My fourth grader brought home the Guinness World Records 2009 today.  He stumbled across a photo of Terry Fox, who stills holds the world record for most money raised by a charity run.

“I’m not a dreamer, and I’m not saying this will initiate any kind of definitive answer or cure to cancer, but I believe in miracles. I have to.” Terry Fox

In 1980, Terry raised $20.7M by for cancer research by running 3,339 miles in 143 days on an artificial leg.  On average, he logged one marathon per day, running from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Thunder Bay, Ontario.

“When I started this run, I said that if we all gave one dollar, we’d have $22 million for cancer research, and I don’t care man, there’s no reason that isn’t possible. No reason!” Terry Fox

Terry was inspired to act when, in 1977, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, the most common type of malignant bone cancer and one that tends to strike the young.  At the time, the only treatment was amputation.  On March 9, 1977, Terry’s leg was amputated 15 centimeters above the knee. Terry was 18 years old.

“The night before my amputation, my former basketball coach brought me a magazine with an article on an amputee who ran in the New York Marathon. It was then I decided to meet this new challenge head on and not only overcome my disability, but conquer it in such a way that I could never look back and say it disabled me.” Terry Fox

Terry was unable to actually complete his initial distance goal.  The cancer had metastasized to his lungs and he was forced to stop running on Sept 1.

“People were still lining the road saying, ‘Keep going, don’t give up, you can do it, you can make it, we’re all behind you.’ There was a camera crew waiting to film me. I don’t think they even realized that they had filmed my last mile… people were still saying, ‘You can make it all the way Terry’.” Terry Fox

But others carried on for him. CTV organized a telethon for his cause, raising $10.5M in a single day.

Terry Fox died June 28, 1981, at the tender age of 22.

Terry’s legacy lives on.  The Terry Fox Foundation has raised over $400M for Cancer Research and amputation is now rare for osteosarcoma.

Other people have done amazing things with their running.

The most money ever raised by a marathon runner was $3,669,325.  This distinguished accomplishment goes to Steve Shalke who finished the 2007 Flora London Marathon in support of the Oasis UK charity. In fact, the London Marathon is the largest single-day fundraising event in the world. Since 1981, London marathon runners have raised over $800M for hundreds of charities.  I have the honor of contributing to that total. As a 2006 London Marathoner, I raised in excess of $6000 for African Revival.

Seems these days using sporting triumphs for good causes is par for the course. And it should be!  Athletes accomplish amazing feats every day.  I can’t think of a better way to use that “star power” than to help.  Kudos to my friend who has raised just shy of $7000 for the National MS Society. Kudos to my other friends who just started her drive for the Susan G. Komen society.  We might not all raise $20M, but I am convinced every little bit helps.  It’s the power of people and the power of sport.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Dear JW,

    Warm greetings from the Terry Fox Run in Canada!

    JW we received you blog submission in a Google alert and I felt compelled to write to you.

    First I would like to thank you for writing about Terry and sharing his example of courage and perseverance with all who read your site.

    The power of Terry’s vision working through so many people in close to 29 countries around the world touches all of us at the Foundation. Together, the organizers, participants and supporters, exemplify the volunteer spirit that makes communities more caring and responsive to the needs of others. The strength of The Terry Fox Run lies in the cumulative effect of thousands of individuals who commit themselves to bringing about a future free of cancer. Our admiration for all, who make a difference in the lives of others, is unbounded.

    We have all been touched in some way by this terrible disease. Terry’s vision and strength of conviction accomplished more than we could ever have imagined — and today our supporters continue to lead us closer to the fulfillment of that vision.

    We are deeply grateful to the millions of people around the world who join together to raise funds in Terry’s name. Their commitment ensures that the future of cancer research is filled with optimism and promise. Since Terry’s Marathon of Hope in 1980, researchers have uncovered a staggering amount of information and developed technologies that are ushering in a new era in cancer treatment and research. Almost daily, newspapers and television report new and exciting advances, many of which have been spearheaded by researchers funded through the Terry Fox Run. The statistics tell an encouraging story. Death rates for most major cancers have declined during the past decade, and deaths from childhood cancer have declined by more than 50% since the early 1950s. Terry would most likely survive if he was diagnosed with cancer today.

    Terry has taught all of us to always have hope, to be courageous, always be committed, to have perseverance, to believe in yourself and to never, ever give up on your dreams. Terry taught us the power of one.

    Words cannot express the pride I feel to be given the opportunity to work as the International Director of the very Foundation that bears my brothers name. When I think back to 1980, I am overwhelmed by the emotions the memories evoke. Although I feel pain and sadness over having lost my brother, at the same time I am overcome with an immense feeling of pride at having known and loved him. How fortunate am I to have shared the first 16 years of my life with someone who has not only united a nation, but has touched the hearts of millions of people in close to 30 countries around the world. And how fortunate am I now, to have been given the honour and privilege of working with our International Run Organizers, to keep Terry’s dream of living in a cancer free world alive.

    JW, if you ever consider organizing a Terry Fox Run in your community, please do not hesitate to contact me. We would be delighted to help you in every way that we are able.

    We currently have a Terry Fox Run in New York, in Central Park and our organizer would be happy to assist with questions and advice.

    Wishing you the very best of luck in all that you do,

    Judith Fox-Alder

  2. runrunrunrun says:

    Wow, Judith! What a meaningful post. Thank you so much. As I mentioned in the blog, I was reminded of Terry when my son opened to his photo in a book. It got me thinking and I started to search the web to learn more about him. I wrote the blog within hours of seeing my son’s book. I wasn’t even ten when Terry did his run, but I remember witnessing it on TV. Now that I am older, and an endurance runner who tries to raise money annually, his feat is astounding to me. What a fantastic example he set for everyone. It would be an honor to run or organize a run for his namesake organization. I will give some thought to what I might be able to do next year.

    Thank you for reaching out to me.


  3. MD says:


    i will be writing ameaningful essay about terry fox.
    i chose him to write about because of his act of courage. i was wondering if you could give me some web adresses to learn more about him

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