I paused when I considered the annual Terry Fox School Run this year. This surprised me. I have both a personal and professional connection to the run. I am old enough to have the memory of the kid dipping his toe in the Atlantic, starting on his lonely run, then capturing the imagination of a country. I no longer have enough fingers and toes to count the number of community and school runs that I have participated in. Terry Fox defined my identity as a Canadian. Yet, I faltered. My job as a school principal is to ensure safety.
I am a big fan of a party. That is what Terry Fox Runs have become. The crowds flocking to runs do not capitalize on the gut-wrenching sadness of cancer, they ride high on the belief that every person has the capacity to take risks and do great things. They are fun. We do make a difference. The Terry Fox Foundation has raised over $800 million dollars towards cancer research. There is a cure for the type of cancer that Terry had. The Terry Fox Run was my first of many 10 K runs. Someone told me towards the end of the run that I had good form. In every run since, when I’m sure I have to stop, I straighten up and am buoyed up to finish.
I have well developed organizational skills and the desire to engage the whole school community during Annual Terry Fox School Runs. Last year, the music was pumping, the kids were energized, the gigantic Terry Fox flag flying, and families and neighbours flocked to the school to cheer us on. Kids were proud of the distance they ran and the money they were able to fundraise for cancer research. Terry Fox inspired them. COVID-19 caused me to balk. How could this be done following the required COVID-19 guidelines?
I am very grateful to my staff for providing the impetus for the run this year. Matt Carruthers brought it up at a staff meeting and the date was set. He provided the schedule for running in learning groups/ cohorts, and the crew to distribute and collect cones. Staff led the charge in their classrooms with lessons and inspiration about Terry Fox. I set up the online donations site and sent the letter home explaining how the Terry Fox Run would look different at Livingstone Elementary in times of COVID. My heart held more trepidation than enthusiasm.
I started run day with a talk about Terry Fox. My heart fills with pride when I talk about who we have self-selected as a Canadian hero. Who had a more valid reason to feel sorry for himself and to feel really angry? The kid had lost his leg to cancer. Yet, that was not what defined him. He set a goal to raise $1.00 from every Canadian to go towards cancer research. Done by February 1st of 1981. Yet that was not what defined him. He is defined by perseverance. He was not always the best at things that he loved, like basketball. It didn’t stop him from loving the game and trying to improve. He is defined by empathy and sympathy. He experienced the ravages of cancer and its impact on other kids in the hospital with him. He didn’t let adversity immobilize him. He was able to think of how he could make the lives of other people better. He was willing to do something really hard. And in the process, he captured our imaginations and gave us hope. He defined heroism in a very Canadian way.
On the Livingstone run day, the gigantic flag and the cones were in place. Most families respected my request to participate via our Twitter feed @LivingstoneVSB on the school website. The Spare Time Treehouse Preschoolers led off the run on the gravel field first thing in the morning. The final learning group / cohort was still running according to schedule at 2:30 pm. Ms. Janze’s class had inspirational chalk messages of encouragement on the sidewalk. Kids were laughing and having fun. They were setting personal goals of how many laps they would do. As we progressed through the day, the donations to the Livingstone School Run continued to roll in. At last check, we were at $2,814.95. Precious dollars we are able to contribute to cancer research when donations to charities are down due to the global pandemic.
In times of COVID-19, there are many disappointments and challenges to maintaining a positive outlook. Terry Fox is perhaps our very best example in Canada, of how adversity does not have to conquer. The #beliketerry and #tryliketerry capture how it is possible to move beyond sadness and anger to strengthen community and make a positive impact in a world that needs it. And my heart soars 🙂