Terry Fox: Can the fundraising in schools continue?

Kid 1 comes home, hands me a crumpled green sheet and says: “I need money, dada, and then we can have more recess.”

What? Why?

“It’s for Terry Fox. Do you know who he is? He is a guy who got sick and ran across the whole country. Like, the WHOLE thing. Then he died. So, now we need a new Terry Fox.”

Well, marks for grasping the story, sort of, so quickly. I was happy. Yes, he’s a Canadian legend who has reached a higher status than founding Prime Ministers are afforded in the public education curriculum. And, now his remarkable story is one I can talk about with my daughter.

(For readers outside Canada who don’t know – GASP!!! – Terry Fox; read here and here and watch here. If there is one Canadian icon to know, or person to talk about with a Canadian you bump into, likely in a bar somewhere, it’s this guy.)

Like most Canadians, I have been raising money for the Terry Fox Foundation for years –  decades actually. My parents too. It’s why the Terry Fox Foundation to date has raised over $700 million for cancer research. Annually, The Foundation is responsible for supporting close to $20 million in discovery based research each year in Canada – a huge sum of money in this country.

By all accounts, the funds have  had a very real and measurable impact.

But (…here is the but).

There are thousands of charities, all (ok, most) doing important, worthwhile work which has a real impact on people’s lives. Yet, since the 80s the Terry Fox Foundation has managed to leverage what might be every single student in the public school system as a source of fundraising.


Can it continue? Will the Terry Fox Run just continue to live on in our schools as our next generation has less and less of a connection to the story. Or, will one day, one principal or school official decide to move on?

Can any other charity anywhere in Canada – even North America – make anything close to the same claim? It would seem every student in the public system is somehow involved in helping fund-raise for this charity.

For anyone who has spent even just one second working with charities/Not-for-Profits, you know one thing – they are hyper competitive and there is massive battle for your dollars. Think every time you’re at the grocery story or any store these days and you are asked: “would you like to donate to $2 to …..”. Ya, that was a business deal and said charity has a massive advantage over others. In the US, Point-of-Purchase charity asks is an almost $2 billion marketplace.

Other charities must be chomping at the bit, sitting back in boardrooms, basements and kitchen tables asking: “how can we get into the schools?”. You can’t. It would be impossible. That’s why it’s even more incredible that, it seems, the Terry Fox Foundation has managed to wrestle down a complete monopoly on this type of fundraising and engage kids, in my daughter’s case as young as 4ish?

For me, the Terry Fox legacy is a very moving, inspiring story. And, after just a bit of research it seems the efforts over the decades have had a tremendous impact. If it gets my kids interested in charities, giving back and encourages them to get out and run/walk (in Terry’s honour), then great, I’m in. Besides, nobody would ever agree on which cause/charity to support anyhow.

One does wonder in this day and age if it the legacy can live on.

But, for now, I was happy to give her a few bucks for her  first official Terry Fox Run (and buy a t-shirt). Besides, did this dad really have a choice?





Author: Adam Grachnik

I am a 30-something father and husband, proudly raising my two little maniacs (girl and boy) in a happy suburban home in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

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