Maybe it was nerves in front of the crowd, but when Rob Reid paid tribute to Betty Fox, the words just didn’t come out right.
It was 2008, and Reid was taking part in a cross-country tour of the Terry Fox’s van, restored by the Ford company.
Much of the Fox family flew out to St. John’s, Nfld. for the van’s unveiling, the city where Terry started his epic run for cancer research.
“I’m not a professional MC, so I ended up talking about the Ford company but at the same time was introducing the matriarch of the (Terry Fox) foundation and the family,” recalled Reid, owner of Frontrunners.
“I referred to Betty as Betty Ford. I got sort of a half laugh-glare from Betty and that’s a look that you never forget.”
The two knew each other well by then.
Reid got involved with the family when he started working toward a Terry Fox statue for the 25th anniversary of his epic run for cancer research.
On Sunday (Sept. 18), he’ll give another tribute to Betty, who died on June 17, at a ceremony to launch the 31st annual Terry Fox Run at Mile Zero.
Betty turned her grief into a mission to carry on Terry’s cause, said Reid. “She ended up spending all of her time travelling the world to get the message out and to raise more and more research dollars.”
She was strong willed and didn’t mince words, but she was also nurturing.
“Betty was sort of everybody’s mom,” said Reid, adding she also kept the foundation on the right road.
Now, there are more than 9,000 Terry Fox Runs taking place in every province in Canada every year.
During the past handful of years, Graham and Doug Lamb have organized the race in Victoria.
For the brothers, the race also has a special connection to their own mother.
June Lamb died of cancer at age 51.
“She started complaining about pain in her hip around Thanksgiving,” said Graham. She died on June 21, 1981, exactly one week before Terry Fox.
“She met Terry,” he said. She also inspired her sons to stay healthy and stay active.
This year, the brothers hope to attract 1,000 runners to Mile Zero, a 50 per cent jump over last year when the weather didn’t co-operate.
“It was the worst downpour I’ve ever been in,” Graham said.
He’s made a couple of changes this year to help bring out the crowds. For starters, the race starts at 10:30 a.m. rather than 9 a.m.
Second, he’s combining the race with the annual Terry Fox Great Canadian Hair”do,” which used to take place on the Friday before the race.
“There’s not a lot of people watching at 4 p.m. on Friday,” said event organizer Linda Johnstone.
Under a big tent, a team of five volunteer hairstylists will supervise “VIP head shavers” including Silken Laumann and city councillors John Luton and Charlayne Thornton-Joe.
While hairstyling or trimming is available, everyone chooses to have their head shaved, said Johnstone.
There is no minimum donation or fundraising to register for the run or hair cut.
The race itself has no budget as it’s entirely volunteer run. Volunteers themselves donate the money for any expenses such as city permits
“It’s tough to put this run on because we don’t have corporate sponsors,” Graham said, adding some companies do contribute but many want recognition in exchange.
Beyond a visible logo, no advertising is allowed at this race.
“That’s not what Terry wanted,” said Graham. “He was doing it for kids.”