By Matthew Liebenberg
Students at O.M. Irwin School in Swift Current were surprised with a special guest during their assembly on Sept. 11 to kick off their Terry Fox Run fundraising campaign.
Fred Fox, older brother of Terry, shared a personal perspective with students through family photos and recollections about Terry’s determination and perseverance.
It is 43 years since Terry captured the attention of Canadians in 1980 with his Marathon of Hope to raise awareness and money for cancer research.
“Terry said even if I wouldn’t finish, we need others to continue,” Fred said. “It’s got to keep going and that’s what Irwin School has been doing for so long.”
He thanked students for their efforts every year to raise funds in support of the fight against cancer.
“You need to know that what you do, you’re making a difference in the lives of so many people,” he said. “We’re getting closer. Cancer survival rates are so much better than they were 10, 20 or 45 years ago when Terry was first diagnosed.”
O.M. Irwin teacher Christine Thompson is coordinating the school’s Terry Fox fundraiser for the eighth year. She felt it was meaningful to have a visit by Terry’s brother.
“It makes it almost like it’s a little more real,” she said. “Terry wasn’t just some figure that we talk about. He had a family and his family is a huge part of the Foundation and his legacy, and carrying on with what we do with our students. So it’s a really great way for them to connect.”
She added that Terry’s story is such a part of Canadian history and therefore something the school wants students to learn about.
“And what a great cause to be able to promote and to be able to raise funds for cancer research in Canada so that hopefully in the future those statistics continue to improve,” she said.
Fred mentioned that Terry did some research after his cancer diagnosis in 1977 and he found that not a lot of money was going towards cancer research back then. He therefore wanted to do something about it. He was also motivated by his experience during his chemotherapy treatments.
“Terry saw other people going through the same thing and it changed his life,” Fred said. “Terry would often say when he was running across Canada in speeches that getting cancer made him a more caring person. Going to chemotherapy treatment, it was clear that it didn’t matter to Terry how sick he was. He was more worried about how other people were feeling.”
Thompson felt those kinds of details about Terry’s life and information about his determination and courage are important for students to know about.
“It’s something that we want our students to learn from,” she said. “We want our students to think of others and we want them to be helpful, and we want them to have those virtues of determination and courage and to follow through with what they start. And there’s so many great lessons that the kids can get from learning about Terry’s legacy and hearing Fred speak.”
O.M. Irwin School has created a strong fundraising tradition in support of cancer research. It has been raising and donating money to the Terry Fox Foundation for the last 25 years. In 2022 it reached an amount of $100,246.77 for total funds raised.
“Our school community is a very supportive group,” she said. “We haven’t done really over-the-top promotion of our fundraiser over the years, but we’ve just really always had very supportive families with our kids at Irwin School. It’s something that every family has been impacted in some way, shape, or form with cancer and it hits so close to home for so many families. It’s a campaign that people are happy to support, because they’re familiar with the Terry Fox Foundation and they feel that supporting cancer research in Canada is something that they want to do.”
Last year’s effort was memorable, because the school exceeded its $7,780 goal and ended with a total of $10,774.77. This was the highest total among all K-8 schools in Saskatchewan that raised funds for the Terry Fox Foundation in 2022.
O.M. Irwin School increased the 2023 fundraising target to $10,000 and Thompson is confident it will be achieved.
“These students surprise me every year,” she said. “Every year they have met or exceeded their goal. So they’re motivated. They have a few incentives every year and a few rewards that they earn, and they’re pretty motivated to make it happen.”
The school activities include a Toonies for Terry Hat Day on Sept. 15 and 22. Proceeds from the sale of Terry Fox Foundation t-shirts as well as the September meal day will be going towards the fundraising goal. A new event this year is the family movie night held on Sept. 15. The school’s Terry Fox Run was scheduled for Sept. 22.
All pledges in support of the school’s Terry Fox Run fundraiser can be made online. The school has an online fundraising page through the Terry Fox Foundation.
“It works very well,” Thompson noted. “That’s something that the Foundation has had for several years. The kids can set up a page online and they have a link that they can share with their family members. So their grandparents that live across the country can pledge them and people can share their links to their fundraising pages on their social media and it’s a really quick and easy way for someone to make a pledge. … Or school has been quite successful with sharing our fundraising link and just asking families if they’re interested in donating to the Terry Fox Foundation.”
The O.M. Irwin School fundraising page will remain open to receive pledges until Dec. 31. The school will welcome community support to reach their Terry Fox Run fundraising target. Online pledges can be made at: https://schools.terryfox.ca/OMIrwin