In 1980 Canadian athlete Terry Fox began his Marathon of Hope, a coast-to-coast run to raise money and awareness for cancer research.
After 143 days, near Thunder Bay, cancer had spread to his lungs forcing him to end his cross-Canada quest, and later took his life in June 1981 at the age of 22.
Canadians still honour his legacy of hope with the annual Terry Fox Run which has raised more than $650 million worldwide for cancer research since 1981.
In Tillsonburg, the town's 2015 Terry Fox Run – open to anyone of any age – will be held on Sunday, Sept. 20.
"It's a big year," said coordinator Anne Ploss. "It's the 35th anniversary and we're hoping it's going to be the biggest one yet."
Participants will begin and finish at the Cardio Plus Women's Fitness and Day Spa parking lot, 518 Broadway. You can bike or blade, wheel, run or walk.
"Our Run this year is going to be a lot like last year's. We're going to have the same routes as we've had before. We've got a 3-km, a 5-km and 10-km, and they are all wheelchair accessible."
The hills on Concession Street West and Baldwin Street come into play for the longer distance routes.
"The hills are a challenge," said Ploss, noting most of their participants are not regular runners. "It's really nice to see they're willing to put the effort in for this. It's so encouraging to see people who want to come out. For them it's difficult, but they want to finish it. It's really inspiring to hear that."
Jim Kramer, who has been raising pledges for the past three years, wheels the 10-km route.
"It was not possible for him to come out before because we didn't have sidewalks on all the streets," said Ploss. "Now we have Quarter Line with a sidewalk, and with the new start location (Cardio Plus) he's been able to get out there. He's been a real inspiration."
Tillsonburg's Terry Fox Run is a family event drawing people of all ages.
"We get a lot of families, a lot of young kids. Sometimes it's the kids who are encouraging their parents to come out to the Run because they learn about Terry Fox at school and they get excited about it."
In recent years there has been a steady increase in both local participation and funds raised – they were up to 145 participants last year.
"We're really hoping to surpass last year's fundraising goal," said Ploss. "I think we raised about $13,000 last year, and we're hoping this year tops even that."
The majority of those funds were raised through pledges. However, for the tech savvy, Ploss said more and more people are fundraising online (you can find the links on FB at Tillsonburg Terry Fox Run).
"It's so simple and easy to register online and collect pledges like that. There is even an app for fundraising and for monitoring your progress, for iPhone and Android. You can download that, check your progress, and you can send out messages to ask for donations."
For those who prefer the traditional pledge sheets, you can get those around town at various businesses (including Cardio Plus) and the Tillsonburg Library.
"Or you can download it off the Internet and print it."
Pledges can be dropped off on the 20th of September. There is no entry fee for the Terry Fox Run, no minimum pledge amount, and no minimum donation required.
Members of the local running group, The Sole Mates, who make up the majority of the Tillsonburg organizing committee, have put together a Terry Fox team that is collecting pledges.
"Every single dollar is important," said Ploss. "If we could get just $1 from every person in Tillsonburg we would surpass our amount from last year. We'd get $15,000 and I'd really love that amount this year in an anniversary year, for sure."
While there is no official corporate sponsorship, several local businesses help out at the event.
"Domino's Pizza provides us with free pizza... and they do it because they're really community-minded. We also want to thank Cardio Plus for hosting us – they let us have the parking lot, they let us use the washrooms inside the gym, and they promote us. Tranquility Spa and Salon also kindly provides a lot of support.
"Sobeys helped us out with a fundraising barbecue. We've done one so far and we'll do another in September (Sept. 5th). John and Wendy Cameron of Sobeys are wonderful, generous people – they've been donating supplies for us to have those barbecues."