Looking back and moving forward on Ward’s Island

Michael Chen, Centennial Journalism

Organizer of Terry Fox Run on Toronto Island

Jordan Hill at the Ward’s Island Terry Fox Run in Toronto, September 2016. (Michael Chen photo)

For Jordan Hill, organizer of the Ward’s Island Terry Fox Run, the event is more than just a way to commemorate Fox’s legacy. To him, the fundraiser has a more intimate meaning.

“My mom was a huge Terry Fox fan and so I grew up with Terry Fox,” said Hill. “This run is actually in her memory, she passed away from lung cancer [in] 1998, and so after we’ve done a run here on her behalf.”

Terry Fox Runs and fundraising events started in Canada in 1981, after Fox succumbed to cancer, but not before he had gained national fame with his commitment to running across Canada and raising money for cancer research.

Every September, charity events across the nation, like the one on Ward’s Island, continue to raise money. While Hill acknowledges that everyone who participates has their own motivations, staying true to Fox’s “authentic” message is his main focus.

The pride is evident in his voice when he describes the $400,000 that the Ward’s Island run has donated since 1989, which, according to Hill, is the highest per capita in all of Ontario.

Hill knew how important Fox was to his mom, who was a key organizer of the annual Toronto Island school Terry Fox runs. While his aunts originally started the Ward’s Island fundraiser, Hill took on the mantle of lead organizer in 2009 and has kept it since.

“If you look around it brings the whole community together, the Toronto Island community,” he said. “Just seeing everyone who has a story of why they’re coming here, because Terry Fox represents a Canadian hero and the more you read about him, the more you get inspired.”

The event tried something new this year by giving cancer survivors the option to wear red shirts to identify themselves as such, said Hill.

One of these survivors is Andrew Carlin, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2006.

“One of the most important things for me as a survivor was getting out there and talking,” he said. “It was a way for me to cope with what I was facing…and men especially don’t want to talk about these very difficult topics.”

Carlin found himself at the run on Sunday thanks to his four-year-old daughter’s interest in “Terry the Fox.” While she isn’t yet able to understand the connotations of his red shirt, Carlin’s thankful to be here 10 years after the diagnosis.

“Just to be able to do this with my kids and my wife is just unbelievable, especially when there was a point in my life that I might not have been able to have children…to be able to participate with my kids and the most important people to me, [it leaves me] almost speechless,” he said.

See and hear Michael Chen’s interview with Andrew Carlin here.