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Fred Fox at Pakenham PS
Fred Fox at Pakenham PS
Posted on 10/01/2015

Adopt Terry Fox’s “Never Give Up” Attitude, Pakenham Public School Students Told


By Mark Calder

(Pakenham) – While Terry Fox epitomized perseverance with his 1980 Marathon of Hope, the Canadian icon had a “never give up” attitude long before he dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic Ocean to kick off his famous trek, Fox’s brother told students at Pakenham Public School (PPS) recently.

Fred Fox visited the school as part of an educational tour to mark the 35th anniversary of Fox’s Marathon of Hope. He spoke of his late brother and how he continually looked to overcome the next challenge in life – be it in sport or overcoming cancer – in hopes students at the school would follow Fox’s example to make their lives successful.

He also assured students that anyone can make a difference, said PPS Principal Dave Balfour.

“The most important message the students heard was that Terry never considered himself a hero or ‘special’ - that we are all the same and we can all contribute to make change,” said Balfour. “He believed he was the same as everyone else but he had incredible resilience and perseverance. When struck with cancer, Terry did not feel sorry for himself and did not ask ‘Why me?’; instead, he asked ‘Why not me?’.”

Fred told the crowded gymnasium how, when Fox was just a young child, he tried repeatedly to build a pyramid out of wooden blocks on a slippery shag rug, something that proved difficult as the pyramid continually collapsed.

As a member of his school basketball team in Grade 8, Fox’s coach told him he wasn’t tall enough or skilled enough to be successful. He practiced every spare moment, and while he rode the bench for much of his first two years, by Grade 10 he was captain and a starting guard.

In his freshman year at Simon Fraser University, Fox made the junior varsity basketball team but was soon waylaid by a sore knee. The pain persisted for three months and doctors later diagnosed its cause as bone cancer, requiring the leg be amputated above the knee.

Despite the unfairness of it all, Fox told his brother the cancer was just another challenge he would overcome, and after witnessing the suffering of other cancer victims, he devised his Marathon of Hope to raise money for cancer research.

He started the marathon in St. John’s, Newfoundland on April 12, 1980, running an average of about 42 kilometres a day. While cancer later returned and appeared in his lungs, he successfully reached Thunder Bay where, on September 1, he was forced to suspend the marathon. Fox died on June 28, 1981.

His legacy inspired an annual run that now takes place in several nations around the world, raising more than $650 million so far.

Balfour said Fred’s recollections of Fox’s courage had an impact on PPS students.

“It was such an honour for our school to be told Terry’s story directly from his brother, someone who knew him so intimately,” Balfour said. “The stories resonated with the audience for their honesty and personal touch.”

The school will hold its Terry Fox Run/Walk this Friday at 2:40 p.m. Students will carry the school banner and noise makers as they walk or run through the village of Pakenham to mark the 35th anniversary.

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