It is almost impossible to spent time in Canada without hearing about Terry Fox. The young hero from Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, lost his right leg above the knee to a type of bone cancer when he was just 18 years old. Three years later, Terry set out on his Marathon of Hope to raise money for cancer research by running from coast to coast across Canada. He left St. John’s, Newfoundland, on April 12, 1980, after dipping his prosthetic leg in the Atlantic Ocean in the harbour. He ran the equivalent of a marathon (26 miles or almost 42 kilometres) a day for 143 days.
A month before his 23rd birthday, Terry succumbed to the disease that had spread to his lungs. The first annual Terry Fox Run was held just over two months later, in September 1981. Forty years later, the legacy continues with schools across the country participating, and Pembina Trails is no exception. With the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic added to the 40th anniversary of the epic journey, the Terry Fox Foundation announced a virtual approach this year and called on participants to be creative and innovative in carrying Terry’s legacy.
École Dieppe answered the call by setting a collective goal to virtually run across Canada. Ambitious? Definitely! But, as the school’s physical education specialist, Leah Benoit, says, it all fell into place easily.
“We had started goal setting with all the students last year and encouraging them all to be able to work at jogging at their own pace, without walking, for 10 minutes,” she said. “This was also a goal that was sent home for all students during virtual learning, so it all tied together perfectly.”
All 382 students in Kindergarten to Grade 4 got involved, starting their PE classes with 8-12 minutes of running counted laps. At the end of each day, the total distance in kilometres travelled by each class was tallied and tracked on a map of Terry’s planned path from 1980.
Benoit emphasized the impact of this task on students’ growth in many areas, “Students are learning about Terry Fox, a Canadian hero, geography, as well as goal setting. Students are asked to set a goal as to how many laps they want to complete each day. Many have learned to make very reasonable and achievable goals.”
The school staff wanted students to know that if they work hard, then as Terry himself once said, “anything is possible.” An important aspect of this exercise has been for students to focus on personal goals, to work within their abilities without comparing themselves to others. In this pursuit of personal strength, however, students were also brought together in working toward a common goal. Tanya Lemoine, principal of École Dieppe, felt a shift in the school’s spirit.
“Terry Fox is someone who continues to affect every Canadian’s life, even 40 years after the Marathon of Hope,” she shared. “It is inspiring to see all Dieppe students working at their own pace toward their own goals during each physical education class. We hear students talking about ‘being like Terry’ on the playground and talking with pride as they become stronger physically. I am excited by how we can work together toward this cross-Canada goal.”
On Friday, October 16, 2020, after just more than a month of running, École Dieppe reached their goal of completing Terry’s planned journey of 6,436 kilometres. What a journey!
Pembina Trails is proud to share the news of your accomplishment. Thank you, students and staff, for showing us that small steps add up to giant leaps, and for reminding us that as we work toward our own goals, we can also work together to achieve something even bigger. Congratulations, your personal and collective journey has inspired us all.