The sister of Terry Fox says she's pleasantly surprised to learn the Manitoba government wants to rename August's lone statutory holiday after the Canadian hero.

Premier Greg Selinger says he wants the Monday of the August long weekend, currently known as Civic Holiday, to be renamed Terry Fox Day in the province.

"We'd certainly be the first, we hope we're not going to be the last because his impact was all across the country," Selinger said Wednesday.

"He started this run in St. John's, Newfoundland, and made it all the way to Thunder Bay before he had to stop because of his illness."

Judith Fox-Alder, Fox's sister, told CBC News she looks forward to talking to Selinger about the province's plan.

"We just found out, actually, and as a family we truly are thankful and proud that the premier wishes to acknowledge Terry's legacy," she said.

Selinger said naming the August holiday after Fox resulted from calls from Manitobans to honour his memory in a more official way.

"He was born in Manitoba in 1958, on July 28, which is just about a week before [the holiday] the citizens started talking about it."​

Terry Fox

Terry Fox meets with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in Ottawa on July 2, 1980. (The Canadian Press)

A bill will be introduced in the fall and it is expected to pass, a provincial spokesperson said.

"It's a very nice and wonderful gesture and, again, it's a way of keeping Terry's dream alive and his memory alive," Fox-Alder said.

The province calls the Winnipeg-born Fox a great Canadian who deserves the honour.

Fox, who lost his right leg to cancer in 1977, set out in 1980 to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research.

His Marathon of Hope began on April 12, 1980, when Fox dipped his right leg in the Atlantic Ocean near St. John's and filled two large bottles with ocean water. He intended to keep one as a souvenir and pour the other into the Pacific Ocean upon completing his journey at Victoria, B.C.

On Sept. 1, the spread of his cancer eventually forced him to end his quest after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres, just outside of Thunder Bay, Ont.

He died on June 28, 1981, at age 22, having become the youngest person ever to be awarded the Order of Canada.

Ordinary beginnings

Fox was born in Winnipeg on July 28, 1958, and moved with his family to B.C. in 1966.

Fox statue

Betty Fox, in 2000, visits the statue of her son Terry that is situated below Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

As a kid, he was always enthusiastic about sports, even when he was the worst player on his Grade 8 basketball team. A teacher encouraged him to go out for cross-country running, a sport in which he had little interest. But Fox was determined to be better and please his coach.

In his final year at Port Coquitlam secondary school, he shared the athlete of the year award with his friend, Doug Alward. After that, he went on to study physical education at Simon Fraser University.

In 1977, when a pain in Fox's knee got so bad he could barely stand, he went to the hospital, where he was diagnosed as having osteogenic sarcoma, a form of bone cancer. His right leg was amputated about six inches above his knee.

He hated the time he spent in hospital and pushed himself to learn to walk again. His determination had him out playing golf only six weeks after the operation. Later, basketball returned to his life when he was invited to play wheelchair basketball with Rick Hansen.

But Fox never forgot his experience in the hospital. He was angry at how little money was spent on cancer research in Canada. He turned his anger into a mission — he would launch a run across the country to raise both awareness and money in his fight against cancer.

Marathon of Hope

Fox ran about 42 kilometres each day no matter the weather — freezing rain, high winds, even snow.

Sports Hall of Fame

The T-shirt worn by Canadian icon Terry Fox lies in a display case at Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in Calgary, Alta., next to the shoe he dipped in the Atlantic ocean before starting his cross-country run. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Skeptics thought he would never make it past New Brunswick, but he proved them wrong and Terry Fox became a household name.

He passed through Sudbury, Ont., in August, the halfway point on his journey west.

But on Sept. 1, chest pains and breathing problems forced him to stop running and he announced he would have to postpone the rest of the run, saying, "I'm gonna do my very best. I'll fight, I promise I won't give up."

Fox was sent to a hospital in B.C., where doctors discovered the source of his chest pains: cancer had spread to his lungs. While the Marathon of Hope was stalled, donations kept coming. A total of $24.17 million was raised, surpassing Fox's initial goal.

While he was in hospital, he received a letter from one of the many people he had inspired along the way. Isadore Sharp, president of the Four Seasons Hotel, wrote Fox offering to help him continue his dream through an annual fundraiser. It would be called the Terry Fox Run.

Fox agreed, but insisted on some ground rules: The event would be non-competitive — no winners, no awards, just the goal of raising money for cancer research. And there would be no corporate sponsorship.

Terry Fox Run

Two-and-a-half months after his death, the first Terry Fox Run was held on Sept. 13, 1981.

More than 300,000 Canadians took part in the event at 760 sites across the country. The run raised $3.5 million.

The Terry Fox Foundation was founded in 1988 and has since raised more than $600 million for cancer research.

The run has gone global, with people in nearly 30 countries taking part.

James Follette, a co-organizer of last year's Terry Fox Run in Winnipeg, said he's excited about the Manitoba government's plan to honour Fox.

"Such a blessing to hear that, because this is a long time coming," Follette said.

"We've been waiting for this for years, of something in Manitoba or Winnipeg just to show a monument or something towards Terry Fox."

This year's Terry Fox Run is happening in Winnipeg on Sept. 14.

Money raised has gone to more than 1,100 research projects in Canada. The foundation says some of the results include:

  • Advances in imaging technology used worldwide.
  • Increased life expectancy for men with advanced stage prostate cancer.​
  • The discovery of a new mutation that may lead to new treatments for lymphoma.
  • Advances in early screening techniques that could potentially improve survival rates from lung cancer.