Skip to content

B.C. man ‘will do everything’ to keep Terry Fox’s legacy alive

Bill Vigars, who was Fox’s publicist during historic Marathon of Hope, spoke at SFU Surrey
Bill Vigars spoke to a crowd at SFU Surrey on Friday (Sept. 23) (Photo: Anna Burns)

White Rock’s Bill Vigars is a man with hundreds of personal stories about one of Canada’s greatest heroes – Terry Fox.

And he loves sharing them.

“He changed my life, and I will do everything to keep his legacy alive.”

Vigars, who was Fox’s publicist, was at SFU Surrey Friday (Sept. 23), sharing stories of the time he spent with Terry more than four decades ago, during the Marathon of Hope.

“The one thing that people don’t realize is how nice he was,” Vigars told his audience. “He was funny, he was relaxed, he loved kids. He was driven by what happened to him in the hospital.”

Fox would often say, “I can quit the run any time I want, but the kids in the hospital can’t,” he recounted.

Vigars, who has never worked for the Terry Fox Foundation, was 33 when he joined the Marathon of Hope. He was responsible for getting the word out about Fox and his historic run. He was working with the Canadian Cancer Society at the time.

The first time he met Fox was on June 9, 1980. He was sent down to Edmundston, New Brunswick, to meet him on his run. Vigars saw how small towns were “transfixed” with Fox when he ran through. He thought to himself, “if this guy gets into a populated area, he’ll explode.”

There was really no schedule for the run, although Fox had to be in Ottawa for July 1 and July 11 in Toronto.

Vigars left Edmundston, and for the next three weeks he drove to as many small towns between Toronto and Ottawa, asking them to organize an event for Fox. They all said the same thing, if Fox made it this far, they would organize an event, said Vigars. Each one of these small towns has a monument for Fox.

He set up several events for Fox for when he would run through Toronto – an appearance at a Blue Jays Game and meeting Bobby Orr.

Members of the Surrey Beavers rugby association participate in the Cloverdale Terry Fox run in 2019. This year the run was held Sept. 18. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Members of the Surrey Beavers rugby association participate in the Cloverdale Terry Fox run in 2019. This year the run was held Sept. 18. (Photo: Malin Jordan)

When Vigars asked Fox how he did it, the young man responded that he took it one telephone pole at a time. 

“He would run from one pole to another, then so on. He said he could not run 42 kilometres, but could run with the mindset of running from pole to pole.”

Shortly after the cancer returned, invading Fox’s lungs and forcing him to abandon his cross-Canada run on Sept. 1, 1980, outside Thunder Bay, Ont. Soon after, Vigars spoke with the CBC.

“This is not the end of the run,” he said at the time. “It’s only the beginning.”

“And 42 years later,” he said Friday, “we are still here.”

Over $ 850 million has been raised in support of cancer research.

Like us on Facebook Like us on Instagram and Follow Anna on Twitter.

Anna Burns

About the Author: Anna Burns

I cover health care, non-profits and social issues-related topics for the Surrey Now-Leader.
Read more