Craig Gardner - from water boy to Chair of the annual Terry Fox Run to find a Cure for Cancer

News 100 yellowBy Burlington Terry Fox Run Committee

September 16th. 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Back in February 2020, when Corona was just a beer and a virus in a faraway land, I had a face-to-face coffee with Craig Gardner to discuss a special project for the 40th Anniversary of the Terry Fox Run here in Burlington. The plan was to invite as many past Chairs to the run on September 20 as we could track down, and profile their stories in a book of some sort.

Obviously, none of that happened – at least not in the format we’d imagined back in early 2020. When the foundation officially announced that the event would be virtual, we knew we had to do something to keep the 40th anniversary top of mind in our community. This blog was born.

Flag raise Goldring and Craig +

Rick Goldring as Mayor hoisted the Terry Fox flag – Crag Gardner and Greg Costa help out.

I recently sat down with Craig again, only this time via Zoom, and chatted about his involvement over the years, his role as chair, the 2020 dilemma and what he hopes for the future.

From Volunteer to Chair

Before joining the Burlington Terry Fox Committee, Craig was a volunteer.

He worked at a water station on run day, hydrating thirsty runners and walkers. His good friend, Donald Carmichael took over as chair from Duncan Alexander, and recruited Craig to join the committee in an official capacity.

Craig’s involvement came about at a time when his father had recently passed away from colon cancer. Though he’d known people with cancer before, the cause became more personal to him through this experience.

On the committee, Craig was in charge of the route layout and setup. This was back when the Burlington Terry Fox Run started and finished at Beachway Park on Lakeshore Road.

Craig CArmichael +

Craig Gardner, Ben Farias and Don Carmichael

When Don decided to step back as chair, Craig said he was willing to take over the role if everyone on the committee approved. We of course did, and he’s been doing the job since 2016.

The first year we ran from Spencer Smith Park, near the Brant Street Pier, coincided with Craig’s first year as chair. Though the decision was not his, as there was construction on our previous route, it was decided after that this new start/finish would become the norm.

Highlights

Every chair brings something new and different to the event, and for Craig that’s what he’s most proud of.

“Every year we try something different,” he said.

He believes this has contributed to our event’s growth – that we’ve been able to offer unique experiences for our participants year after year. “The variety of activities we’ve had resulted in more people and more money (for the cause).”

Craig really wanted to make The Terry Fox Run stand out, as we compete with many other road races and events. “My goal, since I took over, was to differentiate us from real runs” said Craig. “We’ll always have a run…but we’re looking for families to come out and do stuff with us.”

If you look back to the 1981 Terry Fox Run, chaired by Greg Pace, the focus was more on running than it is today. While it will forever and always be the Terry Fox Run, the family-friendly aspect of the event is what keeps it going, allowing generations of people to participate together. You can walk, run and do what you can.

Best Laid Plans

We knew in 2019 that the 40th Anniversary would be big for us, as all major anniversary years have been. Like I said, Craig had big ideas for this year to try to make it our most successful run yet in Burlington.

picture frame

It was more effective as a fund raising tool than rattling a tin cup: Craig Gardner, Don Carmichael and John Alma.

“This year, because it’s the 40th and because last year we came so close to breaking our record for money raised, we were pulling out all the stops,” said Craig.

One of those initiatives involved a sub-committee focused solely on marketing and events outside of run-day activities. But with many businesses closed for months and others adhering to strict physical distancing rules, many of our promotional events had to be cancelled or re-imagined.

While the Foundation made the decision to go virtual in April with the slogan “One Day, Your Way,” Craig didn’t want to just focus on September 20th. Though many people are participating on the day, he wanted to get people going throughout the summer. The Burlington take on it was that it would be “Any Day, Any Way.”

Craig with committee

Craig (Orange Shirt) with committee members Kirsten and Ben, and long-time volunteer, Liz.

Members of the committee were given lists of Team Captains from last year’s run to reach out to to let them know about the virtual event. The plan was to provide teams, families and individuals with a Terry Fox in a Box kit. This would include signs, posters, temporary tattoos, bubbles, colouring pages and shirts if they wanted to purchase them. This was our version of curbside delivery. Teams were encouraged to host small, physically distanced events in their backyards or do something active in their own communities while raising money for Terry Fox.

“I think our strategy was really successful,” said Craig. “Because, here we are, less than four weeks to the run, and as far as donations raised, we’re still the third largest of all of Canada.” (Note: I interviewed Craig on August 28, 2020)

Having Hope

While Craig is happy with our results so far in 2020, he is hoping to get back to Spencer Smith Park for September 2021.

But for now, we focus on making this year the best possible!

Thank you Craig, for guiding us all through this strange time. Your leadership and out-of-the-box thinking have helped us stay motivated to raise money for cancer research.

Not signed up yet? Register today and raise money for Terry!

 

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