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Canada is remembering Terry Fox who passed away 39 years ago today

The legacy of Terry Fox has transcended his death; the heroic Canadian died 39 years ago, but his memory lives on, inspiring millions across the country to achieve their own daunting feats and to donate to cancer research.

On June 28, 1981, Fox passed away at at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, British Columbia.

The athlete was one month short of his twenty-third birthday.

Fox was 143 days and over 5,300 kilometres into his cross-country Marathon of Hope when he was ultimately forced to stop running after the primary cancer spread to his lungs.

In September 1980, the athlete flew from Thunder Bay, Ont. to B.C. for treatment.

“I’m gonna do my very best,” Fox said at the time. “I’ll fight. I promise I won’t give up.”

Although Fox was ultimately never able to complete his marathon, his goal of raising $1 from every Canadian to fight cancer was realized a few months before his death.

On February 1, 1981, Canada’s national population reached 24.1 million; the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope fund totalled $24.17 million.

Now, the Terry Fox Foundation has raised more than $800 million in the athlete’s name as of April 2020.

Canadians continue to honour one of our greatest athletes by participating in an annual Terry Fox run each September (which will be virtual this year) and keeping his dream alive.

Today, Canadians across the country pay tribute to the young man that united an entire nation around his journey.

“Terry Fox is the reason I went to SFU to study Criminology and a Canadian icon,” one person wrote, referring to Fox’s alma mater. “A hero. Absolute legend.”

“In Canada, we consider Terry Fox a hero among heroes,” another person added. “Lost his leg from Cancer at 19. Decided to randomly run across Canada to raise money at 21. No press. No fanfare. Just Forest Gump-style started running. Died 9 months later 3/4 way to his goal.”

But it’s not just today that Canadians pay tribute to Terry Fox; the athlete appeared on a loonie in 2005, and he was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2012.

“For one magnificent summer, an entire nation ran stride for painful stride with a young man whose desire was to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research,” the website says.

Canadians have also petitioned to put Fox on the new five-dollar bank note that the Bank of Canada is releasing.

“If Wilfred [sic] Laurier were alive today he would undoubtedly say please take my face off five dollar bill and replace me with Terry Fox,” one person wrote.

Fox’s unwavering sense of optimism, however, is perhaps most inspiring; on April 26, 1980 — just about a year before his death — the athlete took a moment during his Marathon of Hope to reflect on his life.

“Today we got up at 4:00 am. As usual, it was tough,” Fox said. “If I died, I would die happy because I was doing what I wanted to do. How many people could say that?”

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