Ann Mantini still recalls watching the news as a teenager and seeing Terry Fox begin his Marathon of Hope.
“I was so impressed with what he was doing,” Mantini said. “I followed him; I still have newspaper clippings.”
At the time, Mantini, a resident of Thorold, didn’t know anyone affected by the disease. However, in 1999, she lost her older brother Aldo to cancer. Before he died at age 31, he asked her to continue his efforts in starting a cancer support centre in the Niagara region. Not knowing where to begin, Mantini turned to one of her greatest inspirations.
“I resorted right to Terry Fox,” she said.
Terry Fox began the Marathon of Hope in 1980, after losing part of his leg to bone cancer a few years prior. Fox ran more than 5,000 kilometres across Canada and raised $24 million for cancer research before the disease spread to his lungs, eventually causing his death in 1981.
Last Sunday, the 2020 Terry Fox Run made history; not only did the event celebrate its 40th anniversary, it also became the first virtual Terry Fox Run.
Sporting a vintage 1992 Terry Fox Run shirt for her 12th Run, Mantini took the virtuality of the event in stride on Sunday by creating a 10-kilometre route to Decew Falls. She used the Terry Fox Foundation app to stay connected with participants across the country.
“There are people from all over Canada,” she said. “Even though I may not be with others, I’m kind of virtually with others.”
Mantini is now the executive director of Wellspring Niagara, a non-for-profit cancer support organization in the Niagara region. The Niagara location was created in 2001 in memory of her brother, Aldo. It was, in part, Fox’s “strength and tenacity” that helped her succeed in bringing Aldo’s vision of the centre to life.
“[Fox] certainly did have an impact in terms of ‘You can do it,’” she said. “If he could run a marathon a day, my task was minimal compared to what he did.”
Alexis Higginbotham, a co-chair of the Terry Fox Run in Welland, was happy to see the event continuing with loyal participants, despite the changes.
“While it’s a different time, it’s not going to stop them from running,” she said in a phone interview prior to the Run. “They know it’s an important cause, and they’ll be walking, running, and donating nonetheless.”
Higginbotham completed her 18th Terry Fox Run on the Bauer Trail in Welland and Fonthill. She said the city of Welland raised over $4,000 this year, and though that amount is lower than previous years, she was still happy to add the city’s contributions to the more than $800 million raised worldwide since the event’s inception.
Higginbotham acknowledged the last six months have been difficult for many but hoped that, despite the tough times, people could keep Terry Fox as an inspiration to persevere.
“He didn’t quit, and even though he faced many obstacles… he kept going,” she said. “I think that speaks to us this year, especially…we weren’t even sure if this was going to be possible- but [The Terry Fox Foundation] made it possible.”