The spirit of Terry Fox is alive and well in Fort Frances.
This year’s Terry Fox Run drew 62 participants and brought in $8,477, compared to 57 people and $6,200 in 2016, leaving no doubt that those who came out Sunday afternoon still feel strongly about Fox and his legacy.
Two local residents who have a die-hard dedication to Fox are George Walsh and his brother, Sandy Stalker, who participated in their 37th “Marathon of Hope” this year.
“We were in the first one,” noted Stalker, who regularly can been seen running along the waterfront pushing Walsh, who was born with cerebral palsy, in a special wheelchair modified with a bicycle.
Stalker said Fox was–and remains–a “very important” figure in Canadian history.
“My mother [the late Norah Walsh] was quite taken, being a mother, by what Terry did,” he explained, adding her appreciation for Fox rubbed off on the rest of the family, especially George.
Not only did Walsh lead the Colour Party in from the statue to start the run in Thunder Bay for the first 30 years of the “Marathon of Hope” there, but he’s raised big bucks for cancer research.
“When my mother was alive, they were getting $5,000 and $6,000 a year in pledges, but now we’re down to a couple of grand; $2,500 last year,” noted Stalker.
Walsh raised about $1,700 this year.
“Over the 37 years, he’s gotten well over $100,000–between $100,000 and $150,000,” Stalker said.
A similar drive to keep the spirit of Fox alive also was seen in other participants.
“There’s a lot of history behind it,” said Ken Brown.
“I think Terry Fox is somebody we can really look up to,” he added. “When he set his mind to what he wanted to do, he did it.”
Brown said he tries to take part in the Terry Fox Run each year if possible, bringing along family members to participate as a group.
He feels it’s important to remind the younger generations about Fox and his fateful journey, noting he’s someone to look up to.
“He was a hero in his own right,” Brown remarked.
“I’m participating because our family’s been struck with cancer,” noted Marcia McArthur, who took part in the Terry Fox Run with her family for a third-straight year.
“I am doing this for my dad, for my grandpa, my aunt,” she remarked. “They had cancer and so I’ve come out to do this.”
McArthur said it’s hard not find someone whose life hasn’t been touched by cancer in some way.
Donna Hendrikx, who tries to participate in the Terry Fox Run each year and probably has taken part in more than 25 of them, said it’s easy to explain why she does it.
“It’s for a good cause and I like running,” she reasoned.
Johanna and Brian Strahl, who only have been living here since late May, decided to take part in their first Terry Fox Run in Fort Frances.
“We like getting involved in the community, and we both have family members that have been affected by cancer,” explained Brian Strahl, noting they wanted to run in support of them.
“It’s a good cause and a reason to get some exercise,” echoed Johanna Strahl.
“We like to support healthy activities in the town,” she added.
Avid runner Dr. Lorena Jenks said she participates in the Terry Fox Run every year she’s able–and makes a personal donation whether she runs or not.
She does it “to honour Terry Fox and to raise money for cancer research.”
Dr. Jenks feels Fox’s legacy has not been forgotten.
“It gets down to the kids and I think it’s still ongoing,” she noted.
Organizers, meanwhile, were pleased with how this year’s Terry Fox Run went.
“I was really impressed with this year’s turnout,” said Matt Soprovich of the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau.
“This was my first year co-organizing [along with Joey Payeur of the Fort Frances Times] and given that the weather was looking about 15 degrees colder than last year’s run, we really weren’t sure what to expect for numbers,” he admitted.
“However, we had a good, solid committed group of over 65 participants that came out on a windy 11-degree fall day to show their support.
“I was really impressed with how smoothly everything ran, and I think that our volunteers that came out were a big part of making that happen,” added Soprovich.
“I’m very happy to say that after all our planning and preparation that Fort Frances’ 2017 Terry Fox Run was a big success,” he enthused, adding the fundraising total was “a big step up from last year.”
George Walsh and Samantha Halliday again were two of the top fundraisers this year, with Walsh raising $1,700 and Halliday bringing in an impressive $1,562.
Soprovich himself brought in close to $1,700 in pledges.
“But one might say that since I didn’t run the race that I wouldn’t qualify in these counts seeing as technically I wasn’t a participant,” he conceded.
Duane and Grace Cridland of Flint House offered to match any donations their staff raised themselves.
Staff were able to raise a total of $555, and with the Cridlands matching, this meant a total of $1,110, noted Soprovich.
Flint House also was on-site Sunday selling food for the participants, which raised more than $200, as well, making its contribution over $1,300 after all was said and done, he added.
“I’d like to take a minute to extend my sincere thanks and gratitude, on behalf of myself and my co-organizer Joey Payeur, to the Cridlands and the rest of the Flint House family, my own family for their contributions that came from across the country, and our volunteers on race day who helped make everything run so seamlessly,” said Soprovich.
“Lastly, I’d like to thank every single one of our participants–and congratulate them on bundling up and braving the cold to show their support for a great cause,” he remarked.
“This wouldn’t have been a success without you all.”
The event started at the Sorting Gap Marina, with registration at 1 p.m. and the 5K walk/run at 2 p.m.
Participants, some with canine companions, made their way along the riverfront to the “loop” at the end of the road at Seven Oaks, where a water station was set up.
Then they made their way back to the Sorting Gap.
Those taking part had their names entered in a draw for a chance to win one of 40 prizes donated by local businesses.