Why Scarborough’s West Hill Terry Fox Run keeps the tradition alive

Alex Walters, Shawn Mills and Brenda Schlosser take off running at Scarborough's West Hill Terry Fox Run on Sunday, Sept. 18th. (Emilie Must/Photo)

Alex Walters, Shawn Mills and Brenda Schlosser take off running at Scarborough’s West Hill Terry Fox Run on Sunday, Sept. 18th. (Emilie Must/Photo)

By Emilie Must, Centennial Journalism

A passion for helping to cure cancer brought two friends together again at the West Hill Terry Fox Run on Sunday. The pair, Alex Walters and Shawn Mills, both runners, have known each other since high school, when they were both on track and field teams. Mills befriended Walters back then and taught him how to run properly.

Walters has participated in the Terry Fox Run for 28 consecutive years. His own father was a doctor and made Walters aware, at a young age, about the seriousness of cancer.

“I saw Terry Fox as well when I was nine years old, on TV,” Walters said. “I became a runner, same as my friend, basically because of Terry Fox. He inspired me.”

The 36th annual Terry Fox Run was held on Sunday across Canada, including at the West Hill site in Scarborough. Between 60 and 100 people took part in the local run.

Fox was diagnosed with osteosarcoma when he was only 18. At 21, his right leg was amputated and he decided to run across Canada in 1980 to raise cancer awareness. On July 10 of that year, Fox made his way to the Scarborough Civic Centre, touching off a lasting connection with Scarborough. The Scarborough Civic Centre has a corner of the first floor dedicated to Fox’s visit and the speech he made that impacted the lives of Scarborough’s local residents.

Joe LeMoine has been the organizer of the West Hill run since it was first held in 1981. LeMoine worked near where Fox ran through Scarborough in the summer of 1980.

“(Fox) finished up at Variety Village on Kingston Road and then he went up to Scarborough Town Centre and I guess that was the first big impact of his run,” LeMoine said, recalling where he was during Fox’s Marathon of Hope.

Since then, cancer has directly affected the longtime volunteer.

“I lost a sister a year-and-a-half, two years ago and my brother-in-law,” LeMoine said. “Who doesn’t have, [or] know somebody who has cancer?”

So far, the event in West Hill raised about $20,000 before Sunday’s final numbers were tallied. Since 1980, the West Hill Run has raised a total of $511,585.

Shawn Mills prides himself on being a part of a running community that continues to support Terry Fox Runs across Ontario. Mills lives a three-minute drive away from the run site, and he encouraged his friend Walters, now 45, to run with him this year.

“Running is a sport where you’re by yourself all the time and it’s great to see people come together,” Mills said.

Walters hopes to inspire others to take part in Terry Fox Runs.