Lou Fine was Terry Fox's 'father on the highway'
At first, accompanying Terry Fox across Northern Ontario was just a job for Lou Fine. It quickly became a passion.
In 1980, when Fox was making his now-famous Marathon of Hope across Canada, Fine was the Northern Ontario district director of the Canadian Cancer Society.
Fox, who had lost a leg to a type of cancer called osteosarcoma, began his trek in St. John's, Nfld. in April of that year, and ran the equivalent of a full marathon every day.
He hoped to raise one dollar for each of Canada's 24 million people.
“When Terry came along in 1980, all the directors – there were nine of us — had to take him through their territory,” 86-year-old Fine said, speaking to Northern Life at Sudbury's annual Terry Fox Run in Bell Park Sept. 16.
“I was the one who had him last. I had 1,000 or 1,200 miles to go with him. I spent the last seven weeks with him on the highway.”
Fox was an “entirely normal” young man who “ate like a horse,” he said. He was very disciplined about his running, and was in bed by 8 p.m. every night, Fine said.
Fine was with Fox when he was forced to end his run outside of Thunder Bay Sept. 1. The cancer had spread to his lungs.
“He cried like a baby,” he said.
I spent the last seven weeks with him on the highway.
former Northern Ontario district director of the Canadian Cancer Society
Nine months later, Fox died of cancer at the age of 22, but Fine said his dream lives on in all those who participate in Terry Fox runs every year.
The annual Terry Fox Run, first held in 1981, has grown to involve millions of participants in over 60 countries, and is now the world's largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research.
More than $500 million has been raised in Fox's name.
One the 25th anniversary of Fox's trek, Fine was honoured by the young man's family, who said he was his “father on the highway.”
Raising funds for medical research is a cause near and dear to Fine's heart. He lost two daughters as toddlers in the 1950s to a rare brain disease.
Nobody knew how to treat the condition because nobody had ever done any research on it, he said.
Fine himself is now a three-time cancer survivor. As far as he's concerned, if someone can live for 20 years after they've developed cancer, there is a cure for the disease for many people.
Frances Summerhill, who has been organizing Sudbury's Terry Fox Run for 30 years, said all of the money raised from the event goes to cancer research done by the National Cancer Institute. Last year, the local event raised $50,000, and she hoped to match or exceed that total this year.
The event is supported by the Beer Store, Gloria's Restaurant and the Laurentian University residences, all of which do fundraisers for the cause, she said. Many of the 300 people at the Terry Fox Run were Laurentian University students.
Summerhill said she'll always regret she didn't go to see Fox when he ran through Toronto, where she was working at the time.
“I was going to go, and I thought 'It's busy and it's hot,'” she said. “One of my biggest regrets is I didn't go see him, and he's my hero.”
All these years later, Fox remains a role model, Summerhill said.
“He taught us with passion and commitment and determination that anything is possible,” she said. “He said dreams are made of people trying.”
One of the participants in the local Terry Fox Run has a better idea than most what Fox went through.
A young woman named Lisa, who did not want her last name used, lost her leg last year to osteosarcoma, the same cancer Fox lost his leg to. She said Fox is an inspiration to her.
“After he lost his leg, he just got up and kept moving,” she said.
Fox is also an inspiration to 16-year-old Collège Notre-Dame student Tristan Wallis. He started participating in the event seven years ago with his father, Don. Four years ago, his father passed away from colon cancer.
Tristan raises about $1,000 for the cause by canvassing family and friends. He said he thinks his father would be proud of his efforts.
Fox was a “great man,” Tristan said. “He fought for the noblest of causes, and he inspires us all to do great things.”
Serena Williamson and Amanda Battistuzzi, floor leaders at Laurentian University's West Residence and Single Student Residence, respectively, said they woke up their fellow students to participate in the Sunday morning event.
“I walked down the hall with a giant speaker, playing music to get everyone up,” Amanda said with a laugh.
Serena said participating in the Terry Fox Run is important to her because she's lost many family members to cancer.
She said it's also good for university students who aren't from Sudbury to get off campus and feel like they're part of the community.