Terry Fox National School Run Day: I speak at Cleveland Elementary as a Terry's Team cancer survivor

Terry Fox National School Run Day: I speak at Cleveland Elementary as a Terry's Team cancer survivor

Students decorated the gymnasium with picture maps of the cities that Terry Fox visited on his 1980 Marathon of Hope.

In 2005, 9000 schools across Canada participated in the very first Terry Fox National School Run Day.  Hundreds of thousands of Elementary School children all participated in school assemblies about Terry Fox, watched videos of Terry Fox, then did their very own Terry Fox Run at their own school.

Last year I spoke at Cleveland Elementary School a week before the National School Run Day.  It was a very inspiring event.  We showed a video clip from the CBC television special 25 Years of Hope: The Legacy of Terry Fox, produced by my friend Moyra Rodger who also produced the GungHaggisFatChoy CBC TV performance special.
One of the parent/teacher representatives talked about how Terry Fox was a light for the world.  Then we watched a clip from the Terry Fox video “I Have a Dream,” followed by a run for all the students.

This year the video “I Am Terry Fox” was shown then I was introduced.  I asked how many of the students remembered me coming to speak to them.  I told them that last year I was involved with a CBC television documentary crew that wanted to make a story about my family history and me as one of the central stories.  I told them that my great great grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan had come to Canada as a methodist preacher for the Chinese United Church.  His life had been dedicated to community service and so were the featured members of our family. 

Todd Wong guest speaker with Cleveland School Terry Fox Run organizers Debra Pascuzzi and Susan.

The documentary wanted to include my community service work such as speaking for Terry Fox Runs, and how I had overcome a near fatal cancer tumor in 1989.  So in the documentary there is a picture of me with no hair on my head.  I explained to the students that chemotherapy is a cancer-fighting drug that kills all the fast growing cells in the body, so your hair and fingernails stop growing.  I had lost all my hair due to the cancer treatment, and so had Terry.  Our hair actually grew back in curly.

This year, Terry's parents Betty and Rolly Fox and his sister Judith and brother Darrell all had their heads shaved to help promote the 2007 Terry Fox Run.  I asked the students why they thought the Fox's would shave their heads, and one little girl answered “to be like Terry.”

“Yes!” I said, “they wanted to show compassion with other cancer fighters and help the public know what cancer fighters have to go through.  One small part is losing your hair.”

At that point the video tech signalled me, and we started the Generations: The Chan Legacy dvd.  She had to skip more than halfway to get to the picture of me when I was 16 years old, healthy and holding up two freshly caught salmon.  The School Run organizer Debra Pascuzzi thought it would be good for the students to see me as a healthy youngster before I lost my hair.

The documentary talked about me facing the challenge of cancer and next showed me having lost my hair, but soon there were pictures of me speaking at a 1993 Terry Fox Run in Burnaby.  I talked about realizing that this was a “second life” for me, and how it was important to give back to the community.

Next the documentary showed footage from the 2006 Terry Fox Run in Richmond BC, where I was the guest speaker.  In the video I say thanks to all the participants for coming out to support cancer research.  Next the video showed how I became involved in dragon boat racing.

“Dragon Boat racing… that's what I do now, ” I told the audience.  “I am healthy now, but when I had my cancer in 1989, it was a size of a large grapefruit behind my breast bone.  The doctors gave me a 60% chance to live with treatment.  Without treatment they said I would have died in two weeks.

“But cancer research has really improved since Terry Fox's time.  Many people who would have died 20 years ago, now recover and lead healthy lives.

“This week some of you or your parents might be attending the CIBC Run
for the Cure, or maybe you participated in the Lance Armstrong event,
or a different event.  Many of these events wouldn't exist today if it
hadn't been for Terry Fox.  It was 27 years ago today that he ran the
Marathon of Hope, which inspired the annual Terry Fox Run as a
fundraiser for Cancer Research.”

“And I want to thank each of you for helping to support and participate in the Terry Fox Run.”

After I spoke, the MC explained what would happen during the school run.  But before that two grade 7 students came up to talk about Terry Fox.  The parent / teacher rep came up to ask and answer questions about Terry Fox and cancer.  The kindergarten, grade one and two students sang a song about Terry Fox.  Then we watched one more short video about Terry Fox, and headed out to the field.  What a fun inspiring day!

Cleveland Elementary School – pictures for hope and inspiration for Terry Fox Run – photo Todd Wong

See my Flickr site for more photos:

Terry Fox National School Run Day

Terry Fox National School Run Day

Here are some of my related stories about Terry Fox and my cancer survival:

on Mon 18 Sep 2006 

on Sun 18 Sep 2005

on Sat 30 Sep 2006 1

on Fri 15 Sep 2006

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