Betty Fox

Terry Fox’s mother passed away this morning. Shortly before the 1993 Terry Fox Run I interviewed her in Montreal for The Gazette. Here’s that story:

Break time. Betty Fox sank gratefully into a chair and talked about the difficulty of carrying on the work begun by her son Terry, one of the few heroes a modest country has permitted itself to celebrate.

Twelve years have passed since Terry Fox died at 22 of cancer, 10 months after he had to cut short his cross-Canada “Marathon of Hope.”

Even after all that time, touring the country talking about the disease that killed Terry before he could kill it is “still difficult,” his mother said quietly.

“It’s telling Terry’s story, talking about Terry not just once a day but many times a day. It’s meeting other cancer patients, it’s meeting parents of children with cancer, people who may have seen Terry on the road and relay those stories.

“All of that – it’s really trying, it’s really very hard.”

Not that the strain shows.

Veteran politicians would have envied the poise Fox showed yesterday as she spent two hours working a room filled with members of corporations involved in Quebec’s second Terry Fox Run Corporate Challenge.

Seventy Quebec corporations are participating in the Challenge this year, up from 35 last year.

The goal of the challenge is to see which company’s employees can raise the most pledge money for cancer research in the 13th annual Terry Fox Run on Sept. 19.

The fact that the number of companies participating has doubled in a year shows that the movement Terry started hasn’t stopped growing, his mother said.

That makes all the work worthwhile, she said.

“I get a lot more out of what I do than what I give, I’m sure.”

She gives a lot.

Every spring, she tours the country’s schools raising awareness about cancer research. Summers it’s corporate functions and interviews with the news media.

All year long she works out of an office in the family home in Port Coquitlam, B.C. The Fox family makes all the major decisions about the Terry Fox Run and associated fundraising activities.

Maybe the Foxes could have lent their name to a fundraising effort run by professionals, but Betty Fox said they never considered it.

“I really believe that if the family had not been involved in all decision-making, that the run and Terry’s name would have been exploited now. I don’t think it would be intentional, but . . . the endorsements and the commercialism would have been there.”

All that’s there now is results. Last year Terry Fox Runs were held in 33 countries.

On Mount Royal’s 10-km course, 1,500 people ran, walked and wheeled, raising more than $100,000. Quebecers together raised $550,000. The Canada-wide total was $8 million.

Total funds raised worldwide since the first run was held exceed $100 million.

Still, Betty Fox keeps spreading the word.

“You often hear about children following in their parents’ footsteps. It’s a rare instance to find a parent following in the child’s footsteps.”