Tecumseh’s Allison Family Has Raised More Than $80,000 For The Terry Fox Foundation
Story by Karen Tinsley
Turns out, that inspiration is mutual. More than 40 years later, kids around the world continue to be inspired by Terry Fox—particularly right here at home.
Just ask Tecumseh teen Remy Allison.
Twelve years ago, when she was just four years old, Remy lost both of her beloved grandparents to cancer.
She recalls, “My mom explained that anyone—even little kids—could die from cancer. That made me determined to do something to help!”
It all started with a humble lemonade stand.
“My whole family got involved that first year; we raised $400 for the Terry Fox Foundation!”
After their first fundraising success, the Allisons formed the AlliWonga Foundation. An umbrella organization for their many charitable efforts, “AlliWonga is a blend of my parents’ surnames,” Remy explains.
Helping to build a school in Africa, authoring a cookbook to support the Downtown Mission, and raising money for Haiti are just some of the reasons that Remy (who chaired the Windsor-Essex Community Foundation Youth Board and received the 2013 “Youth in Philanthropy” Award) was recognized in 2018 as a United Way “40 Leaders Under 40”.
When asked “why Terry Fox?”, Remy responds, “Because he is one of Canada’s greatest heroes. Because for more than 40 years, millions of people around the world still participate in Terry Fox Runs and fundraisers. And because my mom is a cancer survivor.”
After the advent of COVID, the Allisons had to find safer ways to fundraise.
“2020 was the 40th anniversary of Terry’s Marathon of Hope. We partnered with some amazing local fitness instruc-tors to create a virtual celebration of this milestone. We hosted “40 Minutes for Terry’s 40th” — a series of 40-minute workouts on Facebook Live with the hashtag #trainliketerry. Our 2-day event resulted in $10,000 in online donations!”
This year, Remy and her little sister Grace, who both love to bake, have been selling specialty cupcakes to raise funds.
“Our signature “Lemonade Stand” flavour has been a big hit! We sell them by the half-dozen, with all proceeds to the Terry Fox Foundation.” When we talked to Remy in early July, the girls had sold more than 500 cupcakes, raising $1,200; they were also finalizing plans for an online cake auction occurring every Saturday in August.
Fred Fox cannot say enough about the Allisons.
“Terry once said, ‘Anything’s possible if you try. If we all gave one dollar, we’d have $22 million for cancer research and I don’t care man, there’s no reason that’s not possible.’ The Allison family ‘gets’ grassroots fundraising. They’re living proof that every dollar adds up to make a big difference.”
A few years ago, the local news featured some kids running laps around their schoolyard for the Terry Fox Run. Several of them talked about how brave Terry was.
What is it about Terry that has resonated so strongly with kids?
Fred thinks, “Maybe because Terry was a regular guy. He wasn’t physically imposing. But he had compassion and determination in spades. When he started training for the Marathon of Hope, he was up every day at 4:30 a.m. Running caused agonizing bone bruises, blisters and cysts on Terry’s stump. But he found the will to go on.”
In 1981, there was no internet, no social media, no cell phones, no 24/7 news cycle. There were not many witnesses in the middle of Newfoundland where Terry started out. Although a buzz did begin to build as he ran through the Maritimes, he still was not on the nation’s radar.
But by the time Terry reached Montreal, things started changing. Canadians began to latch on to Terry’s dream. As he ran by, fists clenched, jaw set and eyes focused on the road ahead, they wept.
A massive crowd greeted him at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto.
Toronto Maple Leafs icon Darryl Sittler ran beside Terry; hordes of people followed along. Back then, you just did not see people outside running—especially not people with disabilities. Buses did not kneel, sidewalks, washrooms and most venues were not wheelchair accessible. And here was this 22-year-old guy running a cross-country marathon—on one leg.
At this stage, Terry had run through six provinces—3,339 miles. Close to a marathon a day, for 143 days—no mean feat for a two-legged runner; an extraordinary one for an amputee.
Terry ran through tiny fishing villages and some of Canada’s biggest cities. He began before dawn every day, wearing shorts and a T-shirt sporting a map of Canada. Nothing stopped him; he ran through ice storms, wicked summer heat and biting, bitter winds.
Donations poured in. People waited for hours to see Terry. Sometimes someone would press a $100 bill into his hand as he ran by. One day $20,000 was collected on the highway. In Gravenhurst—the heart of cottage country with a population of 8,000—more than $14,000 was donated. Somewhere else along the way a musician, apparently without cash, handed Terry his $500 guitar.
On the way to Thunder Bay, Terry’s health took a harrowing turn and he was in trouble. He had run 26 miles, day in and day out. But now, something was very wrong and he had to stop.
His voice breaking, Terry announced that his cancer had spread. “I need more x-rays or maybe an operation or more drugs. I’ll do everything I can. I’m gonna do my very best. I’ll fight. I promise I won’t give up.”
Being flown home to Vancouver was not the triumphant homecoming Terry and so many others had envisioned. After landing, he was driven by ambulance to hospital—still wearing his Marathon of Hope t-shirt.
A special CTV telethon raised over $10 million – $1 million from the Province of British Columbia; another $1 million from the Province of Ontario. There were also substantial cheques from corporations, but most came from private donations.
Terry became the youngest Companion of the Order of Canada, the Canadian Press Newsmaker of the Year and won the Lou Marsh trophy for outstanding athletic achievement. His portrait was hung in the Sports Hall of Fame. The Guinness World Book of Records named Terry its top fundraiser. A mountain was named after him in British Columbia. Letters of encouragement came from around the world.
But most importantly, donations to his Marathon of Hope reached $23.4 million.
Terry lived long enough to see one of his dreams become reality: raising $1 from every Canadian. In February 1981, the national population reached 24.1 million; the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope fund now totaled $24.17 million.
Just one month before his 23rd birthday, Terry Fox died.
On September 13, 1981, the inaugural Terry Fox Run happened across Canada and around the world. 300,000 participants raised $3.5 million.
This year, the Allison family is gearing up for yet another successful (and sweet!) COVID-friendly Terry Fox fundraiser.
“Because cancer won’t wait. And because Terry asked us to try.”