Thirty five years ago, Terry Fox embarked on a run across Canada with the goal of raising one dollar per Canadian for cancer research. Although Terry’s own fight with cancer forced him to end his journey after 143 days, the courage and determination he showed in the face of a terrible illness resulted in a lasting, worldwide legacy.
Evidently, it’s a legacy that many staff and students within the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) community wanted to honour. This September saw several OACS schools participating in Terry Fox events, in solidarity with thousands of other students in both public and private schools who felt compelled to run for the cause.
For many participating OACS schools, these walks and runs allowed staff and students to live out their Christian faith in a context unique to their own community.
Take the Terry Fox event at Willowdale Christian School, for example, in which students were invited to walk or run a 2.5 km circuit that included 4 stations commemorating the Marathon of Hope.
“At the first corner, all students dipped their toes in water, just like Terry dipped his foot in the Atlantic,” explained Sarah Ross, a teacher at the school. “Our second station had students bringing in change to donate, reminding us of the support Terry received from the community to raise funds for cancer research. The third corner was a photographer to suggest the national media coverage involved in the original run. The fourth and final corner was a quote so students could pause, reflect, and pray for those still struggling, just as Terry did.”
For Orangeville Christian School, the Terry Fox Run also served as a chance for students to think about their own spiritual formation. “The Terry Fox run reminds students of those qualities Terry Fox demonstrated so dramatically—perseverance and dedication to helping others, values Jesus taught us as well,” said Martha Muntz, principal at the school. The day also highlighted some of the goals the school brings to “growing great kids”, she noted. Students ran in their house teams, which promote leadership and mentorship in the older grades, and give younger students the chance to develop positive relationships with older peers.
For other OACS schools, running in support of Terry was a good way to bring a particular theme into focus. An update on the Calvin Christian School website put it this way: “In light of our theme of the year, Build Your Kingdom Here, we are happy to be supporting a cause that brings hope and help to individuals and families affected by cancer.”
Terry Fox events were meaningful expressions of a shared faith at the high school level as well, allowing staff and students to raise funds in the community and to support one another through the sharing of stories.
Before running a 4 km route in honour of Terry Fox, students listened to ESL teacher Corrina Cameron share her story. At nineteen years old Cameron was diagnosed with stomach cancer. She explained that the experience—from diagnosis, to treatment, to recovery— had a profound impact on her growth as a Christian. “God used the experience to show me that I was never in control of my own life like I have thought. I turned to him, knowing that God has the power to be in control if I wasn’t.”
Good things came from Cameron’s difficult experience. “God’s given me a heart for causes and people that I didn’t have before,” she said. “We all have struggles that God will use for good. Sharing those stories with each other multiplies that good. Who knows who will be impacted by your story?”
Cameron sees another valuable link between her own experience with cancer and Terry Fox’s legacy. “He (Terry) did not get to see the full result of his accomplishments in his lifetime,” she pointed out. In light of that fact, she invited students to rethink their perspective on the different struggles they face. Her message to the LDCSS community was powerful, but simple: “Trust that God will use the suffering in your life for good, and use it to positively impact the lives of others now and in the future.”
As Christian schools from all over Ontario responded to the incredible legacy that Terry Fox created thirty five years ago, a rich picture emerged—of schools coming together for a single cause, and reflecting the distinct spirit of their communities in the process.