Teen laces up for Terry Fox Run with thankful heart
Annual event in Sault draws over 400
Melissa Wilson laced up her shoes Sunday to give thanks for a long-time friend who survived a cancer scare.
The Sir James Dunn collegiate student was one of 466 participants in the 24th annual Terry Fox Run at Roberta Bondar Pavilion.
Her friend since Grade 1, Amber Selkirk, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer that usually affects children under 10, in July 2000. A golf-ball sized tumour was removed from her right nasal cavity at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.
Several fundraisers, including a bowling night and pub, were held between August and November of that year to assist Selkirk's family with medical and travel expenses.
Selkirk, now 16, said she's feeling good and is counting the months until July when her cancer will have been in remission for five years.
"Amber, words cannot express how happy I am you're still here. I love you. Love always, Melissa. XOXOX," read the note Wilson wrote on a message display near the pavilion's stage.
"We do everything," said Wilson prior to the fundraising walk along the waterfront.
Selkirk credited the annual run to benefit cancer research for her continued survival.
In 1984, she said youngsters diagnosed with neuroblastoma had a survival rate of just five per cent. Thanks to advances in cancer treatment, that survival rate now stands at more than 80 per cent.
"Without Terry Fox I wouldn't be here," said the Grade 11 student at Sir James Dunn collegiate.
Fox ran 42 kilometres a day, the equivalent of a marathon, for 143 days as part of his Marathon of Hope across Canada in 1980.
Local residents donated more than $110,000 to Canadian Cancer Society in the month after his Aug. 12 appearance in the city.
Organizer Rob Frech said Sunday's run "will be close" to matching 2002's total of $24,600. That year saw the most dollars raised in the run's history in the Sault.
"It was really obvious that people made an effort to want to be out there (Sunday) to do the run," he said.
"We're getting people out because they want to come out and remember Terry Fox and raise money for cancer research."
The number of participants has steadily increased since Rob and his wife Carole took over its organization in 2001.
Run numbers have surged from 100 in their first year to 329 in 2002 and 390 in 2003. More than $80,000 has been raised during that time. Proceeds benefit cancer research done by National Cancer Institute of Canada.
Frech credits word of mouth for the jump in attendance. He wants to see 500 people out for the run's 25th anniversary in 2005.
"We have a good (financial) base and I want to make sure we maintain that and try to add to it a little bit each year," he said.
The couple's daughter, Julie, died of bone cancer in 2000. She was 19.