By Ben Freeman Collins, Centennial Journalism
Blaine Sikich was only 12 when he watched Terry Fox attempt his historic run across Canada and the tragic end that followed.
“The heartbreak of it when it ended touched the whole country,” Sikich said Sunday at the Thornhill Terry Fox Run. “I was no different, it left such an impression on me that he became a hero of mine.”
Sikich, the organizer of the Thornhill Terry Fox Run, was among the participants and volunteers who arrived early Sunday morning at Thornlea Secondary School. They are participating in the 36th annual Terry Fox Run which is held every year across Canada on the second Sunday after Labour Day.
The Terry Fox Run started in 1981 when Fox first attempted to run across Canada in order to raise money for cancer research and inspire cancer victims. Having begun his run in St. John’s, N.L. Fox had become a star by the time he reached Ontario. When he arrived in Thunder Bay he was forced to end the marathon early, when it was discovered that his osteosarcoma had returned. Although Fox would die the following year his Marathon of Hope went on to inspire millions of Canadians to run every year in his memory.
Sikich was among them and the following year in 1981 he organized his very first run with some friends on a small dirt track behind Silverthorn Secondary School in Mississauga. Since then he has been involved with the run every year.
It was not until later in life that the significance of what he was running for hit home.
“My dad’s a cancer survivor, my brother’s a cancer survivor, and my brother passed away from cancer recently,” Sikich said.
When the previous organizer for the Thornhill Terry Fox Run was preparing to step down and looking for a replacement it was Sikich who stepped forward. That was five years ago.
With a turnout of about 750 people, Sikich expected to raise over $100,000 for cancer research.
Kevin Sayal contributed to the goal. He is a member of United Hindus of Canada, an organization founded by his father.
UHC is “a collaborative effort of Hindus so that they get together and their voice gets heard,” Sayal said. “Where there’s something that seems unjust we try to get involved.”
UHC has been involved with the Terry Fox Run for the last 10 years. “Terry Fox is a big thing for us because we know that a lot of the money that’s raised goes directly to research, it’s less administrative costs than some of the other charities,” Sayal explained.
Jenny Bermingham’s story is similar to Sikich’s.
“I just remember growing up, and, you know, hearing about [Fox] and everything like that, plus I have family members that are battling cancer,” Bermingham said.
This is the sixth year that she and her family have attended the Thornhill run, but unlike most participants, she is biking.
“Well some of my kids can’t run the distance, and they still want to participate, so biking is the easier route,” Bermingham explained.
Her message to the community?
“Never give up hope.”