Jela Tejada, Centennial Journalism
The large group was easily spotted from a distance. Each member wore a white T-shirt with a portrait of a smiling boy named Christopher Kelly. Approximately 40 of Kelly’s friends and family participated in the Terry Fox Run at Woodbine Beach on Sunday. In August 2006, the 17-year old Oshawa, Ont. teen was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, the same type of cancer that took Terry Fox.
“I know how much the prosthetic hurt Christopher, and his wasn’t even a full amputation,” said Christopher’s mother, Nancy Kelly. “So I can’t even imagine the pain Terry went through.”
Christopher underwent multiple surgeries and procedures after diagnosis. Seventeen inches of his left femur was removed and replaced by a metal prosthesis. By 2007, the cancer has reached his lungs, and spread to his esophagus and spinal column. At the age of 20, Christopher died, in November 2009.
This is the family’s eighth year doing the run at Woodbine Beach. They vow to continue the tradition.
“We get bigger and bigger every year,” said Sandra Lewis, Christopher’s aunt. So far, their team includes extended family, friends, children and dogs.
Although Christopher’s parents live in Oshawa, they chose the Woodbine run site, since it is the “most central because our family is all spread out and we grew up here”. The run organizer, Pamela Politano, agrees the location is good.
“What’s great about our site, because we’re on the boardwalk and the beach, is that we’re accessible to wheelchair, bikes, stroller, dogs, people with walkers,” she added, “We’re accessible to everyone.”
This was Politano’s second year organizing the run at this venue. However, she has been participating in the run for over 20 years. Her children have been joining her, even before they could walk.
“The most memorable experiences are when I brought my kids and they actually got to know who Terry Fox was,” she said. “What he did and how he has impacted cancer patients today.”
A decade ago, Politano’s stepfather died from lung cancer. She supports this cause because she wants to raise enough money to find a cure for all types of cancer. So far, the Woodbine Beach Run site has raised around $75,000. Their goal is to reach more than $100,000, which was the amount raised in the previous year.
The 36th annual Terry Fox Run began with Terry, a cancer patient from Port Coquitlam, who ran on one leg across Canada in 1980. He did so to raise awareness and cancer research funds. Nancy Kelly emphasized the importance of donating towards the cure for cancer.
“Christopher had a concoction of chemotherapy procedures that was not available for Terry Fox,” she said. “The improvements that were made specifically for Christopher’s and Terry’s cancer weren’t discovered until 1996.”
Christopher was known for being a fan of heavy metal music. His relatives also remembered how easily he could grasp quantum physics.
“I definitely miss his intelligence and his wit,” said his mother. In 2008, her son’s dream of going to Germany for the Waken Open Air Music Festival was made possible thanks to the Children’s Wish Foundation. Almost a decade later, Christopher Kelly’s memory lives on because of his loved ones.
“Terry did say ‘If I can’t finish, it has to go on without me,’ and it definitely has,” Nancy Kelly said.