It was a meeting along the roadside outside Heatherton, Antigonish County that took place almost 40 years ago – chronicled in this newspaper, including a photograph that has become one of the most iconic in our history.
With the widest of smiles, Terry Fox shakes hands with Blaise Cameron, the then Casket sales manager, who was making a donation to the young athlete’s Marathon of Hope.
“Dad thought it was an incredible feat,” Sean Cameron said of his late father’s thoughts after meeting Fox.
Blaise, who had served as president of the Antigonish Track Club, knew tackling a marathon would be challenging for anyone, let alone someone with one leg, who was also embarking on the challenge day-after day.
Four years earlier, Fox lost his right leg to cancer – a fibreglass and steel artificial limb in its place, one that he dipped into the Atlantic Ocean in Newfoundland to start his journey.
“It was a great memory for him,” Sean added of the encounter.
He reminded that when his father and Casket colleague Terry MacPherson met him, before Fox travelled along Highway #7 through Sherbrooke on his cross-country trek, the fundraiser in support of cancer research was in its infancy – both geographically and in terms of notoriety.
By the time Fox reached northern Ontario, just outside Thunder Bay – 143 days and more than 3,339 miles after his effort began, the 22-year-old was battling – more and more – chest pain and coughing.
A hospital stay confirmed the cancer – now in his lungs – had returned.
Nevertheless, a dogged Fox pledged the Marathon of Hope would continue, once his health allowed, but that did not happen.
After a 10-month battle, one month shy of his 23rd birthday, the now Canadian hero died June 28, 1981.
“Even if I don’t finish, we need others to continue. It’s got to keep going without me,” Fox said.
People across Canada and around the world have done just that with their support of and participation in the annual Terry Fox Run.
Since the inaugural event in September 1980, just a few months after Fox’s passing, more than 300,000 people across the country turned out to help raise more than $3.5 million.
With the 38th run on the horizon in countless communities across Canada and around the world, the fundraiser globally, to date, has amassed more than $750 million.
“It is for such a great cause,” the younger Cameron said, noting the “innovative cancer research” funded by the event.
He, along with Kathleen Gough, Debbie Beaton and Frank Lukeman, are organizing the Antigonish run, with assistance from St. F.X. student Erin Corbett.
“We want to ease the stress of raising a lot of money,” Gough said, noting the group wants the focus to be on participation.
People can make a pledge – any amount is meaningful – when they come to register.
Registration for the Antigonish run gets underway at 10 a.m., with an 11 a.m. start time.
The 5k route, which can be navigated on foot or wheels, is a round trip from Columbus Field to the Antigonish Landing.
Last year, almost 100 people turned out, including members of the St. F.X. cross country team, and garnered more than $1,000.
“It is a great family event,” Beaton said, agreeing ‘the more the merrier,’ when it comes to participation.
For more information about the Antigonish event, including how to volunteer, visit their Facebook page.
‘Sense of community’
That ‘great family event’ sentiment is one shared by Sarah Boudreau, who has spearheaded the organization of the Port Hawkesbury run for almost 10 years.
“I stopped counting,” she said, with a laugh, while reflecting on her time with the fundraiser.
Shortly after her and her husband, Trevor, moved to Port Hawkesbury, they decided to participate in the 2008 fundraiser.
“It was a last minute decision,” she recalled of that first fall in her new community.
The couple joined one other person for the event, which was experiencing a lull after being held every year since the inaugural run.
In 2009, Boudreau, who was on maternity leave after having her son, Luke, heard about the need for an organizer on the radio.
“I thought I would have the time and I decided I wanted to do something for the community,” she said.
The annual gathering now attracts more than 80 people, with numbers having reached 120 to 130 on a few occasions.
Boudreau noted the numbers are “very much weather dependent.”
“We have 20 or so people, who come each year, and there are always some new faces, which is great,” she added.
Last year, as part of its evolution, organizers moved the Strait area run from the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre to the neighbouring community trails.
“We wanted to do something a little bit different,” Boudreau said, noting the new location, with its popular five-kilometre route, was a “huge hit.”
She added there is always room for participants and volunteers.
"Come out and bring a friend,” Boudreau said.
She reminded that the event is not just for runners – it is something for people of all ages and abilities.
“There is such a great sense of community and sense of reflection [on the trails],” Boudreau said, recalling the feedback she received last year.
Registration for the Port Hawkesbury run gets underway at noon, with a 1 p.m. start time.
The one, five and 10k routes, which can be navigated on foot or wheels, are part of the Port Hawkesbury Community Park trail system.
For more information, call Boudreau at 902-625-5405.
Along with Antigonish and Port Hawkesbury, there are runs scheduled for three other Strait area communities.
In Margaree Forks, at 2 p.m., participants will gather at the Coady Tompkins Library, where they can navigate a five or 10k route.
In St. Peter’s-Sampsonville, at 1 p.m., the George Robertson Recreation Complex will serve as the start point for a one, two or five-kilometre trek.
In Upper South River, Antigonish County, Leo Duggan and his family will, once again, host an event at their home, where participants can head out on a 10k route.
Registration for the 10 a.m. run will start at 9:30 a.m.
For more information about the Terry Fox Foundation, including how to make a donation to the Terry Fox Run, visit terryfox.org