Iqaluit treats famous runner’s parents to taste of the north

An offbeat high school program takes its inspiration from the life of Terry Fox

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

ANNETTE BOURGEOIS

­The couple who gave up their private lives to keep their son’s dream alive visited Nunavut this week for a little rest and relaxation.

Betty and Rolly Fox managed to hunt on the land and even golf on the sea ice. But the parents of Canada’s most famous cancer-research fundraiser were never far from their work.

The couple made the trip to Iqaluit last Wednesday as guests of Inukshuk High School teacher Nick Newbery, who helped start an alternative educational program in Terry Fox’s honor ten years ago.

Betty Fox, who regularly travels the country spreading her son’s message, said it’s an experience that will stay with her.

“There aren’t many programs like this of Terry’s any place else,” she said, though dozens of parks and schools in Canada are named after her son.

Experience of a lifetime

“It was the first time for me to see a caribou shot and skinned and to be cut up. That was quite an experience being with the native children. Many have been brought up with that. That’ll stay with me for a good long time.”

Fox became a Canadian hero and a role model through his determination to help cancer sufferers, after losing his right leg to bone cancer when he was just 18. When he began his Marathon of Hope ­ a cross-Canada run to raise money for cancer research in 1980­he believed he was in remission.

The reappearance of cancer in his lungs six months later forced Fox to stop the marathon just outside Thunder Bay, Ontario. He died on June 28, 1981, but not before prompting Canadians to donate more than $24 million.

His legacy lives on and pledges continue to pour in through annual Terry Fox runs, which have raised more than $800,000 in the NWT since 1981.

The Foxes first visited Iqaluit ten years ago when Newbery asked to use their son’s name for the special teaching program.

“We wanted to set up a program in the school to help kids who were struggling in different ways and we wanted to have an example to follow,” he said.

Program promotes Terry’s ideals

Terry Fox became that example.

The Terry Fox Program includes instruction in life skills, incorporating both Inuit and Qallunaat cultures and languages.

Betty Fox said ten years ago when they came to sanction the use of Terry’s name and meet the students in the program, she wasn’t as familiar with the goals of the program.

“I really understand the program so much more that we’ve been here to see and hear stories of what’s going on from the children.”

Betty left her job to devote her time to the Terry Fox Foundation. In recent years she’s been less involved, but as appeals to use Terry’s name increase, so does the demand on Betty, Rolly and their three children.

“The whole family still makes the major decisions for the run,” she said. “We do that because the number one priority is Terry’s integrity and honesty. None of us make a decision without first thinking of how Terry would have made it himself.”

Demands increasing

As more people come in contact with cancer or people suffering from the disease, the annual runs to raise money for research continue to grow.

“When Terry did his run it wasn’t because he was on an ego trip,” said Fox. “He never lost sight of those people he left behind in the cancer wards. It was always them he was thinking about and those are the people he did his run for. He felt he was the victor of cancer and that he was cured.”

Fifty-eight countries worldwide hold annual Terry Fox runs. More than $180 million for cancer research has been raised in his name .

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