Finding inspiration in heroes like Terry Fox

Witnessing your child's philanthropic efforts can provoke a fierce sense of pride.

Sharon’s son Adam with Terry Fox’s brother, Darrel.

“Dreams are made possible if you try.”—Terry Fox (1958-1981)

When my son Adam was six, he learned about Terry Fox at school. He was completely captivated. From that point on, Terry was like a member of our family—we read books, watched movies and spent hours on the Internet learning all we could about this young man who dared to dream. But it was a simple conversation on our way home from school that set my son off and running—literally.

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“How can I raise money for cancer like Terry? he asked while we slowly trudged through drifts of snow.

“Well, I replied, “You can run or walk, or even do something like your school jumpathon.”

He thought about this for a moment and said, “Maybe I can raise money by running laps around our park for loonies.”

And so it began.

He ran around the park when it was covered in three feet of snow wearing boots, snow pants and a parka. He ran in the rain, he ran in the heat, he ran when he didn’t feel like running, and one lone time he ran when he had a chest cold and had to stop every few feet to cough. I told him I would give him the loonie even if he didn’t finish. He ignored me and completed the lap. Within five months he had raised $100.

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It was then he was approached by a teacher at his school who had heard about his fundraising efforts. She put us in touch with someone at the Canadian Cancer Society so Adam could go to their office and personally donate the money. We did and he ended up being featured in our local paper; within weeks he had raised another $52.

At one point, Adam’s running began to ebb. It was summer and playing took precedence over running. Then we got the email from our friend at the Canadian Cancer Society. Darrel Fox, Terry’s brother, was taking part in the 2008 Tour Of Hope and driving across Canada in the van that Terry used during his run. Our friend wanted to know if Adam would like to attend the ceremony and donate his money to the tour.

He was off and running again.

On a hot day in July I watched my son stand on stage beside Darrel Fox in front of a crowd of more than 100 people. After a short introduction explaining how Adam had taken on the task of raising money to honour Terry, Adam handed over his collection of coins to Darrel with a confidence I didn’t know he had. I felt a pride so fierce I thought my heart would burst.

While I would love to take credit for Adam’s philanthropy, the truth is my son does what he does not because of me but because of who he is. And because one person, so young when he dipped his foot into the Atlantic Ocean and challenged himself to complete a feat most thought was impossible, lit something inside of Adam and inspired him to think beyond himself.

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A few years ago, Adam set a goal to finish Terry’s journey and run across Canada when he is 18. If I’m lucky, I will get to be by his side every step of the way.

A version of this article was published on TodaysParent.com on September 28, 2012.

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