By Zaid Noorsumar, Centennial Journalism
In September 1981, nine-year old Jagger Long, inspired by Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope that was gaining national attention, decided to join the cause. Undeterred by the lack of a local Terry Fox Run in his small town of Arthur, Ontario, Long got a pledge sheet from a store and ran door to door around his neighbourhood, raising funds for cancer research.
“That was the first time in my life that I ever made a difference,” said Long. “I have been a youth worker for so many years and worked with homeless shelters, worked with people with disabilities and you know, it goes right back to the first time I made a difference.”
Long officially launched Liberty Village’s first Terry Fox Run on Sunday. Over 200 participants turned out to support the cause and helped raise $22,000. The Terry Fox Foundation has raised over $700 million in the past 36 years to fund cancer research. Terry Fox Run events were being organized in 9,000 communities in Canada this year.
Runners, along with their family members and supporters, thronged the grassy patch of Liberty Village Park amidst the towering condominiums that have come to define the area.
Long, who has been organizing other charity events at Liberty Village – where he lives – believes in fostering a sense of community in the area. Last year, he created a Facebook group called Liberty Village Cares Social Foundation to bring together like-minded people.
“(We are) attracting people that want to make a difference in the world,” Long said. “And connecting us to one another – making the community stronger, happier (and) healthier.”
The sentiment of building a strong community spirit is echoed by many of the other runners participating in the run, though some have a more visceral connection with the event. Monica Sigil and her daughter Andrea, who ran together, have closely witnessed the impact of cancer.
“My sister Margarita passed away in 2011, ” said Monica Sigil, an immigrant from Peru. “It was very hard because she was only 47 years old. She was very active. She used to work – take care of all the kids. There were five kids alone – no mother, no father. And today we dedicate it to her – Margarita.”
One of Sigil’s other sisters has been recently re-diagnosed with cancer, after 20 years. Though beset by family tragedy, Monica and her daughter see hope in Fox’s story.
“Terry Fox is an inspiration to us,” Sigil said. “(He) taught that if we get together, everything can be possible…and until now, he is proven correct.”
Liberty Village hosted its first Terry Fox run this year at the Liberty Village Park with over 250 participants helping raise over $24,000 for cancer research. The founder of the local event, Jagger Long, and co-organizer Jason Killackey, recalled the impact Terry Fox had on them as pre-teens all the way back in 1981, when the run was first inaugurated in Canada.
In an interview with Centennial Journalism, Long said that his first philanthropic act was at age nine when in 1981, in the absence of a local Terry Fox Run in his small town of Arthur, Ont., he ran around his neighborhood with a pledge sheet in his hand to raise funds for the cause. Listen here: