It was on day two of a trip to Vietnam seven years ago when I turned a corner and saw Terry Fox. Or more accurately, the image of Terry Fox, promoting the Terry Fox Run in Ho Chi Minh City. Until that moment, I had no idea that Terry Fox was known outside of Canada. But here he was, in a third world communist country, a Canadian hero inspiring hope and raising money for cancer research.

Standing on the bustling, frantic street in Vietnam overwhelmed and intimidated by massive culture shock, I was never so proud to be Canadian.

I was 7 years old when Terry Fox began his Marathon of Hope across Canada (1980). Terry set out to run a marathon a day across our country to raise money for cancer research. Cancer wasn’t as public and prevalent back then and certainly, running extraordinary lengths in the name of a cause or charity was not the common thing to do. I remember my parents talking around the kitchen table about Terry. I remember watching his journey on the nightly news. I remember the plans to go cheer him on when his run reached Alberta.  I remember when he had to stop in Ontario after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres and how my parents, and I suspect the nation, held their breath.

He was and will always be a Canadian hero.  A home grown boy that captured a nation in a way that had never been done before, and may never be matched again.

Terry Fox gave us many “this is actually happening” moments. When he started his journey, when people realized he was serious about it, when he captured our imaginations about what is possible, when stopped his run because his cancer had spread, when he died in 1981. In the early 80′s and still today, Terry Fox showed us what it means to be Canadian: focused, hardworking, determined, open, optimistic and always thinking beyond ourselves.

Terry Fox dismissed geography and disability. He considered them to be opportunities rather than barriers. Today, Terry Fox’s legacy dismisses international borders, political regimes and language barriers as his run happens in more than 60 countries. It continues to rise above the noise and stand out from the clutter. His message of hope has no limits. It only knows how to inspire.

** I was moved to write this post after watching  “Into the Wind”, a documentary on Terry Fox, directed by basketball great Steve Nash and filmmaker Ezra Holland. Well told, inspiring and so worth an hour of your time. Watch the trailer and then I am sure you will be hunting down the full version.