Terry Fox is recognized as a Canadian icon and hero, but to Fred Fox, Terry was his little brother.
“Terry never would have never thought of himself as a hero,” said Fred during a talk at Wishart elementary. “It wasn’t important for him to be famous. When he was running across Canada all he wanted to was help people.”
Fred was 14 months older than Terry, and they were close friends, but Fred admits they did bicker sometimes. Abd while Terry became a household name, Fred said things didn’t come easy for his brother.
“Terry was just like every other kid in this school,” Fred said. “He was an average kid. He worked hard to overcome challenges even before he was diagnosed with cancer … when he was diagnosed with cancer he had to continue working hard.”
During Fred’s school tour he made two stops in Greater Victoria, both at West Shore elementary schools — Happy Valley and Wishart.
The Terry Fox Foundation asked Fred to visit the two schools due to their long-standing support for the Terry Fox run.
“We have had the Terry Fox Run since 1985, that is as old as some of the parents,” said Wishart principal Raman McArthur.
Looking back a Terry’s old report cards, Fred said his brother rarely got a grade higher than a C+ and while Terry loved playing sports, he had to work hard at it. “I hear all the time, he must have been a great athlete,” Fred said.
When Terry was in Grade 8 he decided to try out for basketball. He was possibly the smallest boy in the entire school.
“The coach said he was small and his skill level (wasn’t good enough). He said ‘you’ll sit on the bench all year,’” Fred said.
Those words only encouraged Terry to work harder. Everyday before school, at lunch and after school Terry was on the court. Even after that hard work, Terry spent about 95 per cent of the season on the bench.
But by Grade 10 he was one the starting guards and was captain of the team. “He was never going to quit,” Fred said.
In same fashion, Terry was able to make the junior varsity basketball team at Simon Fraser University in 1976, when all odds were against him there too.
By 1977 Terry’s knee began to hurt and eventually he couldn’t even walk on it. At the age of 18 he was told he had a type of bone cancer.
“We had no idea what cancer was,” Fred said. “He was devastated and he cried. He was told in four days he’d have to have part of his right leg removed.
“I sat there as asked him ‘Why did this have to happen to you?’ Without hesitation Terry said ‘Why not me? I’ve been told all my life I am not big enough, smart enough or strong enough. This is just one more thing I have to overcome.’”
Within 10 days of losing his leg, Terry was fitted with a prosthetic and shortly after decided he wanted to run across the country to raise money for cancer research.
He began his run in April, 1980 in St. John’s, N.L. In September of that year, Terry had to stop because the cancer had spread to his lungs. He made it to Thunder Bay, Ont. He died June 28, 1981.
“He ran a marathon almost everyday for 143 days,” Fred said. “I am inspired by my brother in every way. He inspires me everyday.”
Wishart school raised $650 in toonies and presented it to Fred during a school assembly on Sept. 30.
“It has inspired me so much that the students are continuing what Terry started,” Fred said. “Terry couldn’t have imagined that people would be doing this 30 years later.”