We can be heroes

I almost met Terry Fox once.

I was working on the Napanee Beaver, in 1980, when the editor came into the newsroom and asked who wanted to cover a service group’s lunch that was organized on behalf “of a kid who is running across Canada on one leg”.

Napanee is 200 kilometres east of Toronto and weeks before Terry Fox would become “the” Terry Fox: the Terry Fox who ran with Maple Leaf Darryl Sittler, the one with the compelling story.

The two most-senior reporters passed on it, but there was still one person above me and, since she didn’t pack a lunch that day, she decided to go. I stayed behind and continued working on obituaries.

When she returned, we all wanted to know if she found out if he was single. “It wouldn’t work out,” she said. “He lives in a van and he travels a lot.”

Sadly, because of our ignorance, we laughed. We had no idea what odds he was against and how he was running a marathon every day on just one leg and one prosthetic to raise money for cancer research.

After all, he was just an ordinary kid.

Well, that’s how we Canadians like our heroes: ordinary people who do extraordinary things.

I think this is why the Terry Fox Run, today, is one of my favourite causes to volunteer for.

It raises money for cancer research, which is a disease that can strike anyone, anytime and without warning.

Well, that isn’t as true as it once was, and it is because the Terry Fox Foundation has helped make research possible that tells us what foods and chemicals should be avoided.

Run for Mom and Relay for Life – and too many others to mention, really – are just as worthwhile. But I like the way the Terry Fox Run is thrown together every year.

It is usually a group of friends who all know what needs to be done and they do it.

This year, for the second time, it is George Maratos and Jennifer Moorlag who are in the centre of it all. As opposed to being movers and shakers, they tend to be magnets for goodwill in all forms. From Skookum Asphalt, donating cash for badly needed supplies, and Starbucks donating the coffee, to volunteers who just show up … it will be fun.

Again, this year, I’ll be working in the hamburger/hotdog stand. We had a blast, last year, with two barbecues fired up and with a contest to see who could collect the most donations.

My grill won, but only because I was an optimist and kept throwing on more patties (the secret is the pot of simmering onion soup that infuses the meat with flavour while keeping the burgers warm and moist).d

This year, the highlight will be listening to Joy Karp as she tells the participants how important they are.

“If it were not for people like that, I would be dead,” she told me last week.

I am certain her husband will be there, too. Rick was in the room with her while she was having radiation treatments – right up to the time they turned the machine on – just as he was with her during the swings through fear, depression and frustration.

Many of us know of her battle with cancer through her diary that she allowed How Ya Feeling Yukon to publish last year. It followed her through diagnosis, the double mastectomy and the chemotherapy sessions.

Check your mailboxes in a couple of weeks for the next How Ya Feeling Yukon which has the second half of Joy’s story, which includes the radiation treatment and the return to “normal”.

Please come out to enjoy the Terry Fox Run. It is easy. Register at the S.S. Klondike on Sunday, Sept. 13, anytime between noon and 1 p.m., make whatever donation you can, listen to Joy and then make your way around the Millennium Trail anyway you want.

I’ll be waiting at the end with the hamburgers and hot dogs.

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