By Tom Budzyna, USAG Schinnen Public AffairsAugust 14, 2008
SCHINNEN, the Netherlands -- In 1977, the night before he lost a leg due to cancer, Canadian teenager Terry Fox decided to run across Canada to rally support for cancer research.
He then trained for 18 months, running more than 3,100 miles with his prosthetic leg -- and April 12, 1980, Fox began his Aca,!A"marathon of hopeAca,!A? across Canada. After running 3,339 miles in 143 days, cancerous tumors in his lungs forced him to stop. Fox died June 28, 1981, but lived to see his goal of $1 per Canadian citizen when donations reached $24.17 million Feb. 1, 1981. Terry Fox has been a Canadian hero ever since.
Canadians hold Terry Fox in high esteem as he is ranked second on the "Greatest Canadians" list and is the youngest recipient of the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian honor. Since 1981, the Terry Fox Foundation has helped raise more than $400 million for cancer research.
Annual Terry Fox events open a door to a philanthropic legacy that is distinctly Canadian, but today these events cross borders for a worthy cause. For the international military community here, including U.S. forces, these events present opportunities to experience many cultures and ideas while making new friends.
"Finding a cure for cancer is near and dear to our hearts," said Gudrun MacKinnon, Translation Services Manager for the Canadian Component in nearby Geilenkirchen, Germany. She has worked with Canadians since 1995, watching Terry Fox events grow. "This year, for the first time, about 600 children from the St. Realschule in Geilenkirchen will hold a Terry Fox walk," MacKinnon said.
To recognize Fox's efforts, the Canadian Component in Geilenkirchen will hold a 24-hour Challenge -- from 10 a.m. Sept. 6 to 10 a.m. Sept. 7 -- at the track behind the swimming pool. Teams can register by calling Capt. James Fedevich at +49-2451-4092322. All NATO ID cardholders are invited.
"We're encouraging international participation in our relay. It'll have a good family atmosphere with games and movies for the kids," said Canadian Air Force Warrant Officer Todd Lake, chair of the Terry Fox Planning Committee.
Other various events planned for the relay: family camping, live entertainment, barbecues -- and the track will be encircled with candles at night.
The Canadian Component in Geilenkirchen also hosts a 10-kilometer run/walk 1 p.m. Sept. 14, on Selfkant-Kaserne Niederheide, Germany (just north of Geilenkirchen). Registration begins at 10 a.m. This event is open to the general public and takes place on the second Sunday after Canada's Labor Day, the traditional Canadian observance of the Terry Fox Run. The route follows forest paths throughout the surrounding area. Refreshments are provided. Advance registration is possible by calling Warrant Officer Todd Lake, Terry Fox Committee Chair at +49-2451-63-3750.
The JFC Brunssum Canadian Component invites NATO ID cardholders to participate in a 5/10 kilometer walk/run or a 20-kilometer bike ride at the JFC Brunssum International Conference Center, Sept 18, 11 a.m. Call +31-45-526-3520 for more information.
"The Terry Fox run is one event that touches all Canadians," said Canadian Army Maj. Ronald Bachynsky, coordinator for the event. "Terry Fox was moved by the suffering of children afflicted with cancer. When he took it upon himself to run across Canada he inspired us to keep the dream alive."
Bachynsky noted that the Terry Fox Foundation has strict rules that govern events held in his name. For example, every donation made by participants are presented to accredited cancer research organizations in the country where the event is held. As events occur throughout the tri-border region, cancer research societies in Belgium, Netherlands and Germany and more than 36 other nations will benefit.
Besides events sponosred by military units, the AFNORTH International School will hold a Terry Fox run/walk Sept. 26 for students, with parents also invited to participate. "We've tied the spirit of Terry Fox into the curriculum," said Corry Robinson, a teacher in the Canadian section of a school comprised of national sections from Canada, Germany, United Kingdom and the United States. Students from other NATO nations also attend classes.
Students prepare by building confidence and awareness. "For example, our second-graders will make posters to learn how to communicate to support a goal," said Robinson. "To build confidence, English as second language students will research and prepare speeches that they will present to other classes and our third-graders will be in charge of accounting."
Donations generated from Terry Fox events are important, but the top priority is placed on the heroic values demonstrated by Terry Fox, stressed event coordinators
"These values are emphasized throughout our events," said Robinson, "and three main messages stand out: one person can make a difference, every contribution to any effort no matter how big or small is valuable, and it is important to learn how to give without expecting something back in return."
Robinson recalled it raining heavily during a past event. One parent, a NATO Soldier from Germany, kept running despite the downpour. "I decided that I wasn't going to stop until he did," said Robinson, "that's what Canadians see in Terry Fox - determination."