Terry Fox runs cancelled because of lack of volunteers

Terry Fox's dream to raise money to fight cancer has inspired thousands of people to take part in annual runs around the world, but in Ontario and Nova Scotia, some communities have been forced to call off the annual event.

Annual cancer fundraiser cancelled in towns in Nova Scotia, Ontario

Terry Fox on his Marathon of Hope in 1980. Fox's efforts started an annual fundraiser for cancer research. (Therapy Content)

Terry Fox’s dream to raise money to fight cancer has inspired thousands of people to take part in annual runs around the world, but in Ontario and Nova Scotia, some communities have been forced to call off the annual event.

In N.S., organizers in Antigonish and Truro say there are too many similar runs for other charities now, and they are struggling to find enough volunteers to help with the Terry Fox Run.

"I feel really badly about not bringing it out there for the people, but it’s hard to do it," said Sherri Mallov, who has organized the Terry Fox Run in Truro for five years. This year, she called off the Sept. 13 event because she couldn’t find help.

The Truro run also faced another obstacle – competition from other charities. Last year, the event was joined by three other runs at the same location at on the same day.

"It’s extremely difficult for people to donate to all the runs that are around," Mallov said. "I expect there’s lots of communities across Canada that are having the same trouble. Money just isn’t readily available."

In Antigonish, the event was also cancelled. Barbara Fickes of the Nova Scotia Terry Fox Foundation said the Terry Fox Run has been struggling there for a few years.

"This is our second year trying to find an organizer in the community."

In recent years, runs in Summerside P.E.I., Windsor and Niagara, Ont., have also been cancelled because of a lack of volunteers.

Bringing it back

Last year, Vicki Samaras said she was shocked when she arrived at the Terry Fox run in Belleville, Ont. and no one was there.

"No tables, no runners," she said. "There are people walking their dogs, talking amongst themselves, but no runners."

It was just weeks after Samaras lost her father to lung cancer. Samaras completed the run alone in tears.

"I went home and I emailed the foundation and I said, 'I'll take it over, please let me take it over.'"

The Terry Fox Foundation quickly agreed.

Samaras said people take the event for granted, thinking it will continue without their participation.

"We know that Terry Fox is something that bonds all Canadians together," she said. "There could be run fatigue out there, but remember, Terry Fox is the original run."

She said it's not about money, but about the message that the fight against cancer isn't over. She's organized this year's race in Belleville with no budget. And said Fox himself only wanted each Canadian to donate a dollar.

"I think we have to remember until cancer is cured, there's a need for the Terry Fox run. We all have to keep his memory alive."

Samaras is recommending other communties try to rebuild their event by starting small. So far, 60 people have signed up to participate on Sunday.

The first Terry Fox Run was held on Sept. 13, 1981, just over two months after Fox’s death. That year, Canadians raised $3.5 million for cancer research.

With files from Angela MacIvor