Terry Fox Coin, Todd with Doug Alward and Terry Fleming (Terry Fox's best friend, and high school basketball coach), at 2005 Hometown Run in Coquitlam, BC.
Terry Fox Run at Cleveland Elementary School – I am guest speaker
Each year I speak at one or more elementary schools as a Terry's Team member. I explain that we are cancer survivors who serve as living examples that cancer research has made a difference. And that is what Terry Fox wanted to do – make a difference.
Cleveland Elementary is in North Vancouver, located just off Capilano Road, just North of the Capilano Suspension Bridge – but on the East side of Capilano Road. It's not too far away from my home in North Vancouver, so it was easy to get to. On September 29th, the National School Run Day, I will speak at Tomsett Elementary in Richmond, BC.
The entire school turned out for the Terry Fox assembly. As children from Kindergarten to Grade 6 filed into the gymnasium, a slide show of images of Terry Fox, and a map of where he ran in Canada played on the video screen.
We sang O Canada in first french, then English. Capilano is a bi-lingual school. This was fun, as I think it was the first time I had sung O Canada in French.
Vice-Principal Sandra Pascuzzi introduced me after welcoming all the students, and saying a brief introduction about Terry Fox. I explained to the students what it meant to be a Terry's Team member and a cancer survivor, then introduced a tape from last year's Terry Fox National Run Day that aired on CBC, produced by my friend Moyra Rodger. It showed a brief history of Terry, then showed school children in Ottawa, Brampton Ontario, and Victoria BC. I asked how many participated in last year's National Run, and explained that while they were participating, that particular Terry Fox video was airing live across the country, and that there were over 5000 schools across Canada and over one million students participating.
I explained when I was 29 years old, I was diagnosed with cancer. It was a scary moment. But I remembered that Terry Fox had initially survied his cancer diagnosis, and the doctors told me that I could too. I had chemotherapy treatment for 5 months.
In 1993, Simon Fraser University gave me the Terry Fox Gold medal for courage in adversity and dedication to society. I held up the plaque with the picture of Terry Fox, and read the words, “Canadians are inspired by Terry's challenge:… 'dreams are made if people try.'” I emphasized to the students that is important to always try – otherwise dreams may never happen. That's what I had to do to beat my cancer. I had to try, and not give up.
I explained to the students that every year, I speak and run at a different Terry Fox run site. I have been a Terry's Team member for Vancouver Stanley Park, Burnaby, SFU, North Delta, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Kelowna BC, and even in Beijing China. I asked the students how many countries now participated in Terry Fox Runs around the world. One boy answered “A lot.”
“That's right,” I replied, “A lot – too many for me to remember. There are now run sites in Africa, Europe, Australia, Asia, North and South America. I told the students that I would be speaking this year at the Richmond run site, but that I have spoken at both the North and West Vancouver run sites before. I then asked who had attended or was going to them, then asked them to identify the sites. After numerous “I don't know” answers, I informed them that the West Vancouver run was at Ambleside Beach, and the North Vancouver Run was at Inter-River Park.
I closed up my talk by telling the children that with any event, you must do your preparation. Before running across the Canada, Terry ran the equivalent in practice. That way he knew he could do it. I related this to doing your homework. If you want to do well in school, you must be prepared.
Following my talk, the beginning excerpt of the Terry Fox video “I Have a Dream” was played. Judy, a parent teacher representative, then gave a lovely talk about Terry being a bright light in the world. She said that Terry already had the answer to finding a cure for many of our problems, and that the answer was inside of us. She asked the children what they thought the answer was. “Stenghth”, “friendship” and “courage,” were some of the replies. Judy said her answer was “Compassion – which means caring for others.” For her that was what Terry Fox embodied and how he gave hope to Canadians and to people around the world.
The event wrapped up with an exercise warm-up, and then everybody went down to the lower field and did a run, along the neighborhood streets. It was fun running with the students. I ended up talking with a mother who came to the school to run with her daughter. We had a great chat about Terry Fox and what he means to people. Some students asked me if I really had cancer. Others simply smiled and waved to me.
After I finished the run, I walked back towards the school. A parent named Darrell commented that the kids had more enthusiasm than most of the people who attend the main run sites. I shared with him that each run site really has its own personality. He asked me if I was a parent. When I explained that I had been the guest speaker, and a cancer survivor, he shared that in 1991, he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. It was scary for him, because he had had a cousin that had died from Hodgkin's in 1980. But now many people survive because cancer treatments have improved.
We were both cancer survivors. And that is the legacy of Terry Fox. Attending a Terry Fox Run is a real honest to goodness, feel good event. People are happy. People are inspired. It is always a joy to attend and to thank people for donating them time and their money. I know that if it wasn't for Terry Fox, and the advances in cancer research – that I might not be alive today.
If you would like to donate to the Terry Fox Run. You can donate to my on-line pledge sheet. Terry's team members offer to run for people who cannot run themselves. Just click on: