Terry Fox was a young man who lost his leg to cancer, and began his campaign to end the disease by running across this great country. Terry captured our imagination and inspired a nation with his guts and courage, and although cancer ended his journey prematurely, we never forgot his words. With his voice choking back tears, he asked us to continue the journey he had to stop.
Each year, through the Terry Fox Run and the school run which happen across Canada each year, we revitalize Terry's dream and run one step closer to a cure for this disease that leaves no family untouched.
Last week my own heart was opened and my imagination inspired, by a 14-year-old girl named Cassidy. While most teens are busy worrying about their latest pimple, Cassidy has been busy raising money, giving away her allowances and birthday gifts and growing her hair long. Her 12-inch-long, sandy brown locks were sheared this weekend as part of the Terry Fox Great Canadian Hair "Do". The stylist who had the honour: yours truly. After a few tears, minutes before those beautiful locks were clipped, Cassidy was resolute and fabulous. I however, was shaking like a leaf, terrified I would graze her scalp or raze unevenly.
In the hour before this public event to celebrate Terry, and honour all those we have lost with cancer, and to support those battling cancer, Cassidy and I had a few minutes to chat. Cassidy has been a young social advocate for years. At age six she was giving her birthday money to homeless people in her community, by eight she was using her own allowances to add goodies to her mom's grocery cart, cans of tuna, beans and cereals that would be in turn donated to the local food bank. When her opa died, helping those with cancer became an intense passion. She raised money for various charities and then grew her hair for four years to have enough hair to make a wig for a child with cancer. Not only was Cassidy cutting her locks, both her sister and brother had joined forces with her; truly remarkable that each child found the courage to do this, and that they had found consensus between them.
As a parent, I marvel at the courage of these young people, and their ability to transcend the real insecurity and self consciousness of the teen years. Each would go back to school on Monday with a story to tell, but also with sideways looks from their school mates. My children are all teenagers and I am reminded daily of the importance of not embarrassing oneself or fitting in. Even the most self-confident young people struggle to get through the teen years without giving into self consciousness and some level of conformity. I have to wonder what kind of conversations go around the family dinner table in this family, where giving back seems to be a shared family value.
It is people like Cassidy and her family that inspire me today and inspire others to remember that Terry ran for everyone of us, and he asked us to continue his work when he had to stop running. Terry captured our imagination, just as Cassidy did this weekend, and through that powerful will and imagination we see for a moment what is possible, what is possible when we don't lay barriers down.
My daughter was so inspired by Cassidy that she has rekindled her passion for helping young mothers and wants to create a family project that will give food and clothing to these young families. Inspiration is contagious. This week when you walk, run or wheel to honour Terry Fox's journey, remember to talk to somebody you have never met, and ask them what their story is, inspiration can be found everywhere.