Inspirational Cancer Warrior Terry Fox Honored in Canada 150 Series

Terry Fox — a determined young athlete who seemingly willed himself into the spirit of an entire nation — will be featured on a stamp in a set commemorating Canada’s sesquicentennial.

Fox, a Winnipeg native, was just 18 in March 1977 when doctors discovered he had an aggressive form of bone cancer and amputated his right leg 6 inches above the knee.

Three years later, Fox doggedly set out on a cross-country fundraiser on April 12, 1980 by dipping his artificial leg in the Atlantic Ocean in St. John’s, Newfoundland and started running westward, intent on raising money to fight cancer.

Dubbed the “Marathon of Hope,” Fox managed about 26 miles a day, but was disappointed by a lukewarm reception through the Maritimes and Quebec. But by the time he reached Ontario, word had spread about the handsome young athlete with the moppish curly hair and the skip gait who was running the equivalent of a marathon every day.

Money, cheers, and honors started pouring in. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, hockey great Bobby Orr, and actress Maggie Smith were just a few of the many celebs who came out to meet the courageous young runner. He would receive the distinguished insignia of a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Fox bravely hobbled his way nearly to Thunder Bay, Ontario. But the Marathon of Hope sadly ended September 1, 1980 as Fox could no longer run. Cancer had spread to his lungs. Fox covered in 5,373 kilometers (3,338 miles), more than halfway across the country, in 143 days. He died June 28, 1981, a month before his 23rd birthday.

A 30-cent stamp honoring Fox (Scott 915) was issued in 1982. A 46-cent Fox stamp (Scott 1824c) was issued as part of Canada’s 2000 Millennium Collection.

Speakers at the ceremony used words like “iconic, heroic, selfishness, incredible,” and “courage” in describing the young runner. The ceremony included a video telling Fox’s story.

Today, Fox’s sister, Judith, helped unveil the stamp during a ceremony today at City Hall in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where her brother started his inspirational run on a dreary, wet spring day.

Judith Fox shared comments made by children today about what Terry Fox means to them.  “I feel emotional today as I look at a Terry Fox stamp being produced in 2017,” Judith Fox said, noting how the 60,000 letters, cards and artworks her brother received during his run inspired him and his family. She also noted how much she cherished the cards and letters she received from Terry during his run.

“My brother dreamed big, and look what became of those dreams,” a tear-filled Judith said.

Others on hand for today’s unveiling included Nick Whalen, a member of Parliament, St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe, Canada Post Vice President of Communications Jo-Anne Polak, and four members of Canada’s Stamp Advisory Committee.

This was the sixth in the set of Canada 150 stamps to be unveiled. The stamps, all in the shape of a maple leaf, are being unveiled in separate ceremonies across the country over five weeks and will be issued June 1. Each stamp commemorates a Canadian achievement, milestone or unforgettable moment from the past 50 years.

Fox intended to raise $24 million to fight cancer, a dollar for every Canadian. His legacy, told in books and a documentary movie, continues to live on via cancer fundraising efforts. Terry Fox Research Institute was established in 2007 in Vancouver and in 2015 noted that The Terry Fox Foundation had raised more than $700 million for cancer research.

Brendan McAleer last month wrote a story for the autofocus website about the van that Fox, his younger brother, Darrell, and their friend, Doug Alward, used during the Marathon of Hope.

“Almost every Canadian has heard the story,” McAleer wrote. “We’ve grown up with it, have folded the narrative into our national myth. While a single meaning for Canada is hard to pin down, it’s easy to point to the image of Terry Fox running with that half-hitch of his and say, yes, here is one of our heroes.”

Canada Post has previously unveiled Expo 67, the patriation of the Constitution and creation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canadarm, Marriage Equality, and the Trans-Canada Highway as the first five celebratory moments of 10 in its Canada 150 program. Details are available at canadapost.ca/canada150.

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