The legacy of Terry Fox lives on for many Canadians as they prepare to lace up for the annual Terry Fox run, which will be held on September 15.
But it’s not just about the ‘run’ for Nigel and Cheryl Gordijk of New Hamburg.
“When we first started doing this, it was just a community event but once we saw the impact and having learned more about Terry and his legacy, we became more personally involved,” said Nigel Gordijk.
“There are over 200 different types of cancers,” Nigel says. “I don’t think people realize this when they say, why haven’t they found a cure yet?”
The couple have become increasingly involved with planning, hosting and preparing for fundraising events throughout the year in support of the Terry Fox Foundation.
“We’ve always been involved with the community, but when we found out that funds raised go directly to research, that’s what we found appealing. There are so many other charities that are run so corporately,” Cheryl Gordijk said.
“For us to commit our time, we decided to do this because of the community spirit Terry Fox left behind and with the run as well, everyone feels connected. With all of these other events which we plan leading up to the run, people have really supported us. They just want to help and be a part of it.”
It all began, when Nigel visited Canada from England in the 1980’s.
“I remember seeing commercials about Terry,” he says.
“I came back in 2007 and in 2010, I did the run for the first time and then I began volunteering in 2011. It was only a small committee of three at the time.”
The first local run in New Hamburg took place in 1996.
In 2013, Nigel and Cheryl took over co-ordinating the run and raised $1,760 that year. The name was also changed from the New Hamburg Run to the Wilmot Terry Fox Run in 2015.
“This was so we could involve more people in the township and we raised $14,305 that year,” Nigel said.
And with each event, support continues to grow.
“It’s made such a difference in our town, and the township now feels like they have taken ownership of the cause as well,” Nigel said.
Nigel and Cheryl continue to look for more fundraising opportunities involving businesses, churches and local community groups.
Recently, “A Night to Inspire” took place in Baden.
Key speakers included Brian Bourke from Kitchener Today/570 News who talked about Terry’s Marathon of Hope which he covered as a journalist when Terry ran in 1980.
Pam Damoff, MP for Oakville North-Burlington and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health also made an appearance.
Damoff recently helped secure $150 million in funding for the Marathon of Hope.
The event came to be because of the Annual Run Organizers Workshop which takes place each May.
The workshop offers participants an opportunity to hear about cancer research progress, listen to stories from cancer survivors and receive ideas from other organizers.
“It’s very inspiring and the feedback and discussion that takes place, it’s so rewarding,” Cheryl said.
Events are free but donations are always welcome.
“Everything we do is in line with Terry’s philosophy which was to give a dollar, or to give what you can.”
Other events include an “On the Road” Concert Series which are small concerts for small audiences hosted in people’s homes.
There is also a “On the Road” CD available for purchase which includes 14 songs donated by musicians from Waterloo Region and beyond.
“A pair of business owners paid for the manufacturing expenses, so 100 per cent of the $15 CD price will go to the Terry Fox Foundation for cancer research, according to Nigel.
The CD is available at local community events and various businesses in New Hamburg. For anyone wishing to purchase the CD, they can visit www.wilmotterryfox.ca/ontheroad
A ‘Concert for Terry” was also held in July which raised over $1,000 in donations.
“All of the musicians volunteered their time. They just wanted to take part,” Nigel said.
“And each year, the Terry Fox Foundation releases a different Run t-shirt design, which is sold all across Canada and internationally. Proceeds from sales go to the Foundation for Cancer Research. In 2018, I donated the design that was used for the official shirt. In Canada alone, 45,000 t-shirts with my design were sold, raising $835,000 in revenue for the Foundation.”
The first Marathon of Hope took place in 1981 and Terry’s family took his final wishes to heart and continue the run year after year.
“We had a birthday concert last year in honour of what would have been his 60th birthday,” Cheryl said.
“Terry’s survival rate was 5 per cent, but today it is at about 80 per cent. It’s amazing how far research has come from funds raised.”
In 2018, $33,700 was raised in Wilmot because of the great involvement across the community.
From baking cookies to hosting local draws, people continue to lend a hand whenever they can.
“It’s a farming community, so people come out to help a common cause. And they know that it’s not just the run, but there are other ways to contribute as well,” Nigel said.
The couple is already planning for 2020, which will be the 40th anniversary of the Marathon of Hope. A memorial will take place on July 20 at Petersburg Park, where a plaque will be unveiled in memory of Terry running through Wilmot.
“We have been able to accomplish what we have because of the community,” Nigel said.
“Without the community, it would be impossible.”
Other coming events:
- Online Auction from August 19 – Sept. 3. Visit wilmotterryfox.ca/auction/
- BBQ for Terry at Sobeys in New Hamburg on Sept. 14
- Breakfast for Terry at Scram & Dram in New Hamburg on Run Day (Sept. 15) from 10 am.
- Wilmot Terry Fox Run at the New Hamburg Fall Fair on Sept. 15. Registration is from 12:30 pm. The run sets off at 1:45 pm. Visit wilmotterryfox.ca/join/
Facts and Figures:
- Terry’s Marathon of Hope started on April 12, 1980 in St. John’s Newfoundland and ended on Sept. 1, 1980 in Thunder Bay.
- Terry Fox Day in Ontario is on the second Sunday after Labour Day, which is also the day of the Terry Fox Run every year.
- Terry Fox was born on July 28, 1958 and he passed away from cancer on June 28, 1981, one month short of his 23rd
- The first Terry Fox Run was held on Sept. 13, 1981.
- All runs are organized by volunteers. There is no operating budget from the foundation and none of the funds raised is used to cover expenses for the run.
- All money raised goes directly to the Terry Fox Foundation which the Terry Fox Research Institute uses to fund research projects.
- Neary 80 per cent of every dollar raised goes directly to fund cancer research with the rest going towards administration and fundraising.
- $21.8 million was directed to programs in 2018.
- 5-year survival rate was 25 per cent in the 1940s. Now, it’s 60 per cent.
- 1 in 2 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.