The Wilmot Terry Fox Run has raised a record-breaking amount of money this year, topping their previous record by more than $10,000.
The estimated total from this year's run is $25,000, organizers said. The previous record was $14,414 in 2016.
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Considering when Cheryl and Nigel Gordijk took over the run five years ago it raised just under $2,000, it's an incredible feat.
The key, Nigel Gordijk said, has been to get the community involved.
"This year in particular, we asked businesses from across the township, across Wilmot, to help us out and run their own fundraisers. So we've been doing that since February and that's made a huge difference," he said.
"By the time we had the run itself, that was the 18th fundraiser of the year."
Building on success
Cheryl and Nigel Gordijk are the entire organizing committee for the Wilmot run — there's no committee, although they do have a dedicated group of volunteers who help out.
"On run day, one of our volunteers just kept telling me over and over again, thank you for letting me help," Nigel Gordijk said.
He said they made a big change in 2015, renaming it from the New Hamburg Terry Fox Run to the Wilmot Terry Fox Run.
Including the entire township coupled with the 35th anniversary of the Marathon of Hope helped them raise $14,000 that year.
It's significant the Wilmot run has had such great success over the last three years given other communities have had difficulty getting volunteers to organize runs.
In April, the Terry Fox Foundation announced seven communities in Ontario didn't have organizers for the annual fall event.
Kitchener was one of them until renovations contractor Marcus Drasdo took the reigns. The run in Kitchener raised more than $12,000 this year. The Cambridge run raised $24,000.
Rounded up to $25000 because someone thought our total looked untidy so he donated the difference! 🤣 https://t.co/Uot9NbQLX1— @Cheryl4Ward2
$1 for every person
The amount raised in Wilmot this year is more than $1 per person who lives in the Township — a population of 20,500 as of the 2016 Census. Organizers note that's significant because in 1980 when he did his Marathon of Hope, Fox had a goal of raising $1 for every Canadian.
"There was a huge emotional response from people in Wilmot," Gordijk said.
He noted the Canada 150 celebrations likely also played a part in this year's fundraising success.
"People seem to be filled with a lot of patriotism and pride in its favourite son, so I think that played a big role in it," he said.
When asked if he had any words of wisdom for other runs, particularly those struggling to carry on, he suggested reaching out to the community.
He admits there was no grand plan at the beginning of the year. They simply approached one local restaurant and asked how they could help. The restaurant offered to donate all the profits from one Saturday.
"That's when we realized, we're onto something here," he said.
They held a Marathon of Shows music festival, where musicians played in different venues in town. They sold T-shirts. Another business sold cookies with all proceeds going to the run. Fred Fox, Terry Fox's older brother, visited the town in August to promote the run.
Then those who took part in the run on Sunday also received free admission to the New Hamburg Fall Fair.
"There's more work for us in terms of the marketing, to spread the word, but the actual running of the fundraisers was handled entirely by the businesses," he said, noting they have more than 80 different businesses and people on the thank you section of their website.
"It's not necessary, waiting for the second Sunday after Labour Day to have the Terry Fox Run itself. There are other opportunities out there for raising money and for engaging with the local population."
Gordijk also said that even though the local run is over for another year, area schools will be holding their own runs at the end of the month and it's another chance for people to donate.