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  Bookends: Dan Davidson


Reviewed: April 13, 2005
By: Douglas Coupland
Publisher: Douglas and McIntyre
176 pages, $28.95

It seems to have been Terry Fox week this week. As I write this column, it was 25 years yesterday since Terry took his water jugs down to the Atlantic Ocean and tried to fill them up, his intention being to keep one and dump the other in the Pacific Ocean. He managed to half fill one jug and the other got away from him in the rough waters off Newfoundland.  His mother still has the jug that survived; there's a picture of it in this book. Some of it has evaporated, but much of it survives.

The legacy survives as well. Terry hoped to raise a dollar from each Canadian during his run. As of 2004, his example has raised $360 million for cancer research, of which $17,163,801.00 were disbursed to various projects for the 2004/2005 year. Coupland has provided us with the complete listing and description of where all the money went in a seventeen page report at the end of this book.

That's not where it starts, of course. It starts with an athletic little boy who grew up playing all sorts of sports and thought he might be a physical education teacher when he grew up. Instead, he grew up really fast when he discovered he had cancer in 1977, the year after he graduated from high school.

It's generally reported that he began to develop the idea of doing something big to raise money for cancer research while he was bring treated. Seeing how much worse of others were appears to have been inspiring. As soon as he could he began to train, to build up his endurance. He became a champion wheelchair basketball player on a team with Rick Hansen, who would later wheel around the world on a quest like Terry's, but in 1980 cross-country crossings of any sort were not commonplace, let alone a cross country hop and skip by a one legged man.

We were in the Atlantic provinces that summer, and hardly heard anything about Terry Fox, who had started his trip months earlier. By the time we began our drive home to Faro from Wolfville, Nova Scotia, in July, Terry would have been somewhere in Ontario, but we didn't run across him, passing through Thunder Bay long before he had to abort the run near there on Labour Day. At home, we finally saw this brave young man on television and realized that we'd missed something along the way.

Coupland doesn't miss much in this book. The format is something like his two recent Souvenirs of Canada books; indeed this one started while he was doing a section on Terry for the second of those books. What he gives us here are lots of photos, many from the Fox family, some from media sources, some pictures that he has taken himself of Fox memorabilia.

The press release says that there are 145 pictures in the book, and that seems quite likely. Many, including the cover photo of Terry in his stylish 1976 cream graduation tux, are family snapshots.

There are copies of letters written to Terry by fans and supporters, pages from Terry's trip journal, part of an interview transcript, shots from the many runs that have been made in the last quarter century, and even photos of the new Terry Fox loonie that hasn't quite managed to turn up in any change I've received yet.

That is a nice symbol. It fits so well with what Coupland says was Terry's equation for the run: RESEARCH MONEY = HOPE MORE MONEY = MORE HOPE 24 MILLION CANADIANS = 24 MILLION DOLLARS

He didn't quite make it, although the avalanche of donations that came in once the country realized he was dying did reach $23.4 million. More significant, though was the $3.2 million raised by that first Terry Fox Run the month that he died - just the first of many.

Inspired by Terry, another one legged runner named Steve Fonyo succeeded in crossing the country over 1984 and 1985, raising over $13 million for cancer research. Steve had a lot of trouble dealing with fame and the loss of his father to cancer. After some legal troubles he seems to have gotten his life together in British Columbia.

Rick Hansen, also inspired by Terry, and perhaps a little by Steve's tribute run, began his Man in Motion world tour in 1985 and raised $10 million for spinal chord research.

The age of fund-raising marathons had begun, and shows no sign of slowing down.

In connection with that, we have this book. Coupland is donating all his royalties to the Terry Fox Foundation and Douglas & McIntyre is doubling its usual royalty rates to support this project.

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