Who Was Terry Fox and Why Should You Care?

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In April of 1980, 21-year-old Terry Fox set off on cross-country run across Canada to raise awareness for cancer research. Four years earlier, he had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer that forced the amputation of his right leg. With an artificial leg, Fox ran the equivalent of a full marathon daily. As his fame grew, thousands turned out to cheer him on. He suffered from shin splints, an inflamed knee, cysts, dizzy spells, and tendonitis, but continued running. Nearly five months into his journey, Fox discovered that the cancer had spread to his lungs; he was forced to stop after 5,373km. Nine months later, he succumbed to the disease at age 22.

“That’s very inspiring,” you may say, “but what does this have to do with Beijing?” Actually, Terry Fox’s influence extends all the way here – and it’s been quietly but steadily percolating for 15 years.

Ask any Canadian who the greatest Canadian was, and an overwhelming number will answer “Terry Fox.” (He came second in a TV series produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in which viewers across the country were asked to vote in. He was bested only by Tommy Douglas, the father of Canada’s universal healthcare system.) Every year, cities nationwide hold the Terry Fox Run, a non-corporate charity event to raise money for cancer research.

In 1998, the Canadian Embassy organized Beijing’s first Terry Fox Run. Initially located at Worker’s Stadium, the run was moved to Chaoyang Park as traffic got more and more congested in the area. The Cancer Institute and Hospital at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (CAMS) was involved early on, eventually taking the lead on organizing the run (though the Canadian Embassy remains closely involved to this day).   

Now known as the Beijing Hope Run, this year’s edition takes place on Saturday, September 28 from 9am to noon at Chaoyang Park. The run attracts thousands of participants every year and has a very laid-back format: Families are welcome to stroll or rollerblade instead of run, and signing up doesn’t involve collecting pledges; participants can simply show up and donate by dropping money into a donation box or wired directly to the organizers.

Though the event skews more Chinese, English-speaking volunteers are available onsite and run’s main contact person does speak English. To find out more or make a donation, contact Rose Gao at 8778 8232 or email beijinghoperun@126.com. I’m planning to be there (probably in a bright orange beijingkids t-shirt), so don’t be shy to say “hey!” (or rather, “eh!”).

Photo by Richard Keeling (via Wikimedia Commons)

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