Front and center on the cover of Bill Vigars’ new book, Terry & Me: The Inside Story of the Marathon of HopeIt’s a photo of Terry Fox smiling.
“I think people remember Terry because of the picture of him running around in pain, the look of pain on his face,” Vigars told CBC. On the coast host Gloria Macarenko on August 29.
“But I remember it with the smile.”
The book, published on August 29, is about the Marathon of Hope from the perspective of Vigars while accompanying Fox.
Vigars, a White Rock, BC resident and former director of public relations and fundraising for the Canadian Cancer Society, met Fox in 1980 in New Brunswick.
It had been 50 days since the 21-year-old amputee and cancer survivor dunked his prosthetic leg into the Atlantic in St. John’s to kick off the cross-country marathon, aimed at raising awareness and funding cancer research.
From the moment they met, Vigars thought, “This guy is going to do it. He’s real.”
On the coast8:08Terry and Me: The Inside Story of Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope
Vigars helped Fox raise awareness for the marathon, which ultimately raised $24 million over the 143 days Fox ran across Canada.
But Fox was unwilling to stand out, Vigars says, turning down several offers of corporate sponsorship.
An unlikely collaboration
According to Vigars, one of the funniest incidents during Fox’s 5,373-kilometre journey was when Mr. Peanut, the stylish mascot of Planters Peanuts, proposed an unlikely collaboration.
The brand offered to buy Fox a new car if the mascot would be allowed to run the last mile with him in Vancouver.
“He looks up and says, ‘You know, Bill, that’s a really good idea. I’ll do it as long as I can wear the Mr. Peanut costume,'” Vigars said.
It never actually happened, but Vigars says the anecdote shows not only Fox’s sense of humor but also his altruism.
“He was very clear that he didn’t want to profit in any way from what he was doing. He just had one message: raise money for cancer research.”
Although Fox is a household name today (with an annual race in his honor, a coin, a stamp, and schools named after him), it was initially a struggle to get attention for his cause.
Vigars says the Port Coquitlam athlete had big dreams: meeting hockey player Bobby Orr, then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and going to a Blue Jays game, which seemed far-fetched at the time.
But Fox finally got all his wishes. After people found out about him, more people began to take notice and donate, Vigars says.
He says people appreciated Fox’s candor.”[With] Terry Fox, every word came from the heart.”
‘I can quit at any time, but people with cancer can’t’
Vigar says Fox’s dedication was the result of time spent in the cancer ward of a Vancouver clinic.
“Watching little kids, some of whom don’t make it, that’s what kept him running every day,” Vigars said.
“He would say, ‘I can quit whenever I want, but people with cancer can’t. They have to keep fighting and I’ll keep going.'”
Fox’s marathon came to an end after he was forced to abandon his route in Thunder Bay, Ontario. His cancer spread to his lungs and he died a few months later on June 28, 1981.
Vigars says her book is her way of letting readers feel what it was like to be in the van, near Fox as he ran the Marathon of Hope.
“I hope to bring it alive to the people who read the book.”