41st annual Terry Fox Run kicked off on Sunday - dozens of teams running and walking to meet targets

By Max Bowder: Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

September 19th, 2021



Terry Fox passing through Burlington 41 years ago on his Marathon of Hope

It all began that April day in 1980 – when Terry Fox was on his Marathon Of Hope.

That event continues to inspire the people of Canada as hundreds of organizers participants and humble observers came to the 41st Terry Fox Run at Spencer Smith Park.

Thanks to Terry’s efforts and sacrifices the Terry Fox Run has raised over $851 million making it the worlds largest one day fundraiser for cancer research.

The Run has always had teams of people out for the Run Day. The pandemic has limited what can be done – but the event takes place nevertheless. Last year – the 40th anniversary was one of the Best Burlington had in terms of raising funds.

The Cedar Springs, Kick some ASSphalt and many more came out to participate in the run by setting high goals with some as high as 3K – 5K runs.

There is a lot of history in this picture: The Terry Fox monument in the middle; the plaque commemorating the Brant in that was once on the edge of the lake where people danced under the stars and the Brant house in the background.

During the day those out for the Kick Off gathered around the Terry Fox monument in Spencer Smith Park to cheers and applause with mineral water drinks being served in exchange for requests to donate to the Terry Fox foundation.

“I’m so impressed with our community, I think it has led to a tremendous impact,” said organizer Shannon Calsey.

“It’s great – our group goal is to raise $1500: we’ve already raised $1300,” Calsey continued.

The Terry Fox marker monument – none like it anywhere in the country – it was paid for by citizen donations.

Several participants felt connected in the run with many telling similar stories of having a loved one diagnosed with cancer or having lost someone to cancer and are willing to come out and support the cause to make sure the funds needed to pay for the research are there.

Although the crowd of onlookers was not as big as organizers hoped, they feel it has been more than made up in donations received with a goal set of raising $150,000 and getting $110,000 raised before the event even started.

Among the volunteers at Spencer Park was retired Canadian football great Tony Gabriel telling great stories to anyone who would listen.

Gabriel has had many run-ins with cancer. His father dying from lung cancer at the age of 57 and his brother being diagnosed with cancer and passing away within weeks.

Gabriel also shared how his son, Shane Gabriel was diagnosed with Leukemia and credits the Terry Fox Foundation for helping save his son’s life because of the advancements made in cancer research.

Coincidentally, Gabriel’s son today is exactly the same age as the Terry Run at 41 years old.

Gabriel told stories about him meeting Terry Fox and finding out after several years that Gabriel, the football player was an early role model for Terry along with Bobby Orr and Darryl Sittler.

“I was very fortunate to meet Terry Fox… 40 years later I found out I was one of Terry’s heroes!” said Gabriel.

Every year a large Dedication board is set up – people who are running or walking to commemorate someone special write a note. Tony Gabriel is explaining how much the Board means to so many people.

Gabriel has also pushed hard in petitions to put Terry Fox on the $5 bill feeling it would be appropriate not only as a national hero but also with the issues of Indigenous people being brought to light because Terry Fox does have indigenous ancestry through his Maternal Grandmother.

The chair of the Burlington Terry Fox committee, Craig Gardener, spoke of how unique the Terry Fox run is compared to other causes and how this was all started by just one man leading to people surviving much longer than expected given their diagnosis.

“It’s had great impact, I mean I know several people who have survived,” said Gardener

In Burlington Terry Fox usually gets the last word.

“I know one fellow who was given 18 months, survived 7 years on Terry Fox research money,” Gardener added.
Gardener’s father died of colon cancer in 2007.

Craig Gardner has been a volunteer for 15 years; when his father passed he found that he wanted to do more and eventually become the chair of the committee. In four of the last six years as Chair of the Terry Fox Run in Burlington they have raised over $100,000.

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