By Bryce Pickard, Executive Director, Digital Health and Discovery Program
Like many worldwide, I grew up hearing the story of Terry Fox, a story synonymous with grit, determination, Canadian pride and the potential that exists within all of us to change the world through small but coordinated efforts. Then the year 2007 led my family on a journey, one that allowed us to develop a more personal appreciation for The Marathon of Hope, the people behind the Terry Fox Foundation and Terry’s commitment to cancer research.
My wife, Lee-Anne, is really the driving force behind our family’s involvement in the Terry Fox Foundation. Through her role at the London Regional Cancer Program, she met a few members of our local Terry Fox Run organizing committee and in September 2007, our family decided to enter a team in the run. It was at the same time, my Grandfather (Grandpa James) returned from a camping trip with severe back pain. Just prior to the run, he was diagnosed with metastatic sarcoma. It was then that our Terry Fox Run team “Grandpa’s Runners” was born. Grandpa James passed away on November 1st, 2007 and Grandpa’s Runners have participated in every Terry Fox Run since then in his memory.
We have held various fundraisers throughout the years for Grandpa’s Runners. One year, as a family afraid of heights, we said we would do the Edge Walk on the CN Tower if we met a certain fundraising goal. We reached that goal and landed just a few dollars shy of the threshold for a skydiving trip...thankfully! Another year, our kids put up a lemonade stand in front of their day care and accepted donations for our team. One individual smiled and quietly slipped a $10 bill in the cup and took three small cups of lemonade for him and his two kids. It was through these interactions, and many others, that we came to realize the tremendous impact Terry Fox has had on the lives of many people, as well as the shared values that many “Terry Fox-ers” have.
It was hard to put into words at first, but we started to see commonalities between Terry Fox supporters and volunteers and what we admired and loved in Grandpa James. Every interaction was authentic, each contribution of time or money, no matter how small or large, was met with a heartfelt thanks. Each contribution was given with quiet humbleness. People gave their best effort and often contributed without being asked.
Each year, we put on our “Grandpa’s Runners” shirts and walk the Terry Fox Parkway in London and it is a reminder of not only Grandpa James but of all our family and friends who have been affected by cancer. It is a reminder of the values and principles that we share with Terry Fox and millions of other Canadians. It is supportive, energizing and a small, but important, contribution to Terry’s vision of a world without cancer.