There are many similarities between Rollin Fox and the man who he rode to honour today in Langley City.
In keeping with a family tradition, the 57-year-old local wine cellar builder, his wife, and their two boys weathered the rain Sunday to once again be part of the Terry Fox Run.
But it’s what transpired 38 years ago, on the stretch of highway spanning this entire country, that ties these two men together.
Both from the Tri-Cities, but unbeknownst to each other, Terry and Rollin Fox each chose in the same year to set off on a cross-country trek.
“In 1980, when Terry was crossing Canada on foot, I was riding from the other side of the country on a bicycle,” Rollin elaborated.
Pockets loaded with money from a stretch of time working in the logging industry in the Queen Charlotte Islands, Coquitlam’s Rollin Fox and a friend planned to bicycle eastward from B.C., and cross Canada. His friend, however, pulled out at the last minute, and Rollin’s twin brother, Alex, saddled up instead.
“I was 20 at the time, and it just seemed like a good idea to ride across the country,” Rollin said, noting he had no noble or philanthropic goals.
At the same time another man named Fox, from the neighbouring community of Port Coquitlam, had launched his Marathon of Hope journey. His efforts were designed to raise money and awareness for cancer research.
Just like Terry Fox, the twins began their journey cross country in April of 1980, and during the early stages of their trip – before the twins reached the Rocky Mountains – they hadn’t seen any news coverage yet, but “kept hearing about this Terry Fox coming the other direction, while we were heading east… We’d run into people along the way and hear these stories.”
The coincidences continued to mount up. Both Rollin and Terry, it turns out, were hospitalized a few times during their treks.
Terry, who had his right leg amputated a few years earlier due to cancer, managed to run more than 3,000 miles and cover six provinces before being hospitalized when the cancer came back with a vengeance.
Similarly, Rollin admitted to suffering a few “mishaps” along the way, including one that landed him in a Moosejaw hospital after being struck by lightning.
The parallels for these two Fox men didn’t end there, either.
Turns out, neither Rollin or Terry were able to complete their expeditions.
Rollin and Alex Fox spent three months on the road and were able to travel from English Bay in Vancouver to Trois Rivieres in Quebec.
Although the twins ran out of time, they are now talking – “after all these years” – of picking up where they left off in Quebec and riding through to the Atlantic Ocean, Rollin said.
That’s not an option for Terry, who started in St. John’s, Newfoundland and had to call it off for health reasons 143 days in, when he was forced to stop running just outside of Thunder Bay, Ont. He was never able to continue on with his mission, dying on June 28, 1981 – one month short of his 23rd birthday.
“When Terry Fox had to end his Marathon of Hope back in 1980, he challenged Canadians to take up where he left off,” Langley City’s run organizer Margaret McGuire-Grout told the crowd at Douglas Park’s Spirit Square.
“And as of today, the 38th year after his Marathon of Hope, 10,000 runs operate across Canada, and internationally there’s even more.”
Terry wanted his run to go on without him, and it has. And, Rollin said he’s honoured to be able to contribute (along with his family) in a small way towards ensuring Terry’s dream of finding an end to cancer can be fulfilled.
Rollin and Terry never crossed paths, but over the years there have been many times that Rollin wished they had.
“Every year we do the Terry Fox Run in order to support his the foundation,” Rollin said, noting he rode his unicycle this year, along side his youngest son, 10-year-old Matthias, in the 10-kilometre leg of the Terry Fox Run. Meanwhile, his wife, Nicola, and their oldest son Lukas walked the one-kilometre route.
Participating is “fun,” Rollin said.
“I think that we’re fortunate to be able to even do this. If Terry were still around, he would be getting out there and doing stuff, and for anyone who is able to do that, I think it’s crazy not to. As long as we’re able to move around and be active, it makes sense to do that… just for the joy of being alive,” he added.
Rollin and his family were among almost 200 people who turned out in the rain Sunday morning to participate in the City’s Terry Fox Run.
While a final tally was still being tabulated, McGuire-Grout expressed gratitude to the 188 registrants (down “slightly” from last year’s 228) and 50-plus volunteers who helped raise close to $15,000 for the cause.
Ahead of the City’s walk, McGuire-Grout again presented the Dave Hall Award.
This award, which pays tribute to a late City councillor, was introduced in 2017 and is given to a “valuable” volunteer to the run.
This year’s award went to Sandi White, for her years of service helping organize the event and run the concession, McGuire-Grout explained.
“She truly is a great community gem,” she added, asking Hall’s widow and daughter Ellen and Amanda to present the award.
Is there more to this story?