The Terry Fox Run is September tradition in Canada. Thousands of Canadians will lace up this Sunday to raise money for cancer research, while school children will do the same on Wednesday, September 28 at the National School Day Run. Thousands more will participate in International Terry Fox Runs throughout the year. Betty and Rolly Fox were the couple that made this happen. They were the parents of Terry Fox, and have been the champions of his cause for the last thirty years.
Betty and Rolland “Rolly” Fox met in Winnipeg shortly after Betty graduated from high school. They were married in October of 1956, and continued to live in Winnipeg as they started a family. A decade later, with their four children in tow, Betty and Rolly moved West. They briefly stopped in Surrey, but it was Port Coquitlam, a suburb of Vancouver, that they and their family would call home for the next 22 years.
At the age of 18, Betty and Rolly’s second-eldest son, Terry, was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer). Terry was an active teenager, but due to the disease he would have to have his right leg amputated above the knee. While recovering in the hospital, Terry was moved by the suffering of the other cancer patients, particularly the children.
It was then that he decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. That Betty and Rolly had raised such a compassionate, motivated, selfless, and inspiring teenager is truly a testament to their own characters and to the strength of their relationship and their combined efforts as parents.
On April 12, 1980, Terry began his Marathon of Hope in St. Johns, Newfoundland. Betty and Rolly would support their son for the next 143 days as he ran 5,373 km West to Thunderbay, Ontario. While he raised awareness for cancer research, and captivated and inspired the nation, his journey would end as the cancer reappeared, this time in his lungs.
On June 28, 1981, Betty and Rolly lost their son Terry, at the age of 22.
Betty and Rolly were heartbroken that Terry wasn’t able to finish his Marathon of Hope, but they came to realize that this was just the beginning for cancer research in Canada.
Betty was determined to keep Terry’s dream alive, and a year after his death, she and Rolly, together with their family, began organizing annual marathons to continue to raise money and awareness for cancer research. In 1988 they officially registered the Terry Fox Foundation.
Betty was involved in almost all aspects of the Terry Fox Foundation. With Rolly’s support, she toured the country, sharing their son’s story. She spoke to over 400,000 children, leaving them all with the message to “Never, ever give up on your dreams.”
Because of Betty’s determination, the Terry Fox Run is now an international event which has raised over $550 million to support cure-oriented biomedical research around the world.
When Betty and Rolly carried the torch into the Opening Ceremonies for the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, they shared their son’s spirit and legacy with the world, inspiring athletes and spectators alike.
Betty herself grew ill, and Rolly and their children and grandchildren supported her to the end. She succumbed to the illness, and passed away peacefully on the morning of June 17, 2011 at the age of 73.
To the very end, her drive to accomplish Terry’s dream continued. On September 18, Canadians will carry on this cause at the annual Terry Fox Run.
To find a run in your area or to contribute to the cause, click here.
Article written by: Meg Burns Dolson