Local family shares significance of Terry Fox Run

·4 min read

The annual Terry Fox Run jogged on for its 41st year this past Sunday and while the event was much quieter than previous years, a local family made sure to continue the tradition.

Clad in Terry Fox Run sweaters and t-shirts, the Wallace family marked the second consecutive ‘virtual’ run with two 5 km walks among family. Since 2009, the Wallace’s have been organizing the Terry Fox Run in Shelburne with family matriarch Joan Wallace, a cancer survivor, leading the way.

“The Terry Fox Run is so important to my family and many others who have faced cancer,” said Dianna Wallace, co-organizer of the local Terry Fox Run. “Everybody is always very excited to do the Terry Fox Run because we believe that we can make a difference. With COVID, we’re not getting the same energy as we would normally, but for my family it’s such a big emotional event for us, and thankfully we’re on the happy side of it.”

In 1978, at the same time that Terry Fox was facing his fight with cancer, Joan Wallace was facing her own. Diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and ovarian cancer, she underwent radiation therapy in 1978, chemotherapy in 1979, and numerous surgeries.

In an email to the Free Press Joan recalled watching Terry begin his Marathon of Hope on the morning news, and seeing him dip his artificial leg in the Atlantic Ocean.

“We followed his Marathon with great interest and admiration. I felt such a connection with Terry, as we were both struggling to survivor cancers,” said Joan.

As family members began participating in the Terry Fox Run over the years, Joan became more active with the event herself.

“The Terry Fox Run is my passion. The fact that the Terry Fox Foundation researches so many different cancers, not just a few, but cancers I have had, and other family members and friends, inspires me,” said Joan.

Despite the low-key celebration of the Terry Fox Run over the last two years with a virtual run, the Wallace’s have worked to continue the event locally.

“I feel like it is something we need to do. Everyone knows someone that has had cancer, someone that lost their battle, and the ones that have survived – it literally affects everyone,” Ian Wallace, Joan’s son tells the Free Press about their participation each year.

“I have participated in the Terry Fox Run for all of my 16 years of life and will continue always. I like to support this cause for family and friends that have been touched by cancer,” said Trent, Joan’s grandson. Trent has made donations with money earned through his lawn care business in honour of his grandmother.

“I have been doing the Terry Fox Run with my family for 12 years now. It inspires me to watch my Grandma Wallace participate in the Terry Fox Run every year because she is a cancer survivor,” said granddaughter Kiera, 12. “We all know someone that has fought cancer and or unfortunately lost their battle. I love walking to support them and raise money for cancer research.”

Members from Active Lives, a day program for adults with exceptionalities and special needs, also took part in the 2021 Terry Fox Run raising over $750 for the cause.

Shirley Anderson, supervisor at the Shelburne campus, said participating in the 2021 Terry Fox Run was a way for the adults of Active Lives Day Program to become further involved with community initiatives, and adds that they’re hoping to increase their involvement for more community initiatives in the future.

In 2018, after almost a decade of running the event, Joan stepped down as organizer passing the torch the daughter-in-law’s, Dianna and Taylor.

“I just thought, I can’t let this go into anyone else’s hands. We need to do this for Joan, Terry, family and friends, and everyone affected by this awful disease,” said Dianna.

“I have learned so much from Joan about why we need to #tryliketerry every year. I’m honoured to be able to continue her hard work and show my family that if everyone try’s we can carry on Terry’s Legacy,” said Taylor.

The Town of Shelburne has raised over $65,000 for the Terry Fox Run since the 1980s and donations for this year are still being totalled.

With the 2021 Terry Fox Run completed, the Wallace’s said they are looking to have even more participation from the community members and businesses next year.

“The excitement and enthusiasm that participants bring out with them is such a warm and cozy feeling. It brings tears to my eyes each and every year we do this event,” said Dianna. “The love and care that everyone shows to our community is inspiring.”

Paula Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shelburne Free Press

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