Some people started off on their own, but the largest group waited patiently to start their run together. Tinkess Photo

RUSSELL – It seems impossible that it has been 43 years since Terry Fox had to stop his cross Canada “Marathon of Hope”, when the cancer he had fought so bravely against returned in his lungs. We were all so much younger then, and so much, did seem possible.

On Sun., Sept. 17, in communities across Canada people once again take over where Terry Fox left off, raising funds to help enable research that one day will discover a cure for cancer.

Russell Township is one of those communities where year after year people of all ages do what they can to help in the struggle. Many of the younger ones may not have any personal memories of Terry Fox, but they have heard about him. Others, a bit older can remember watching as he ran, in all kinds of weather, and how he felt that he had let the country down when he had to cease his journey on Sept. 1, 1980, pledging that he would return if possible. It wasn’t possible, but in his place, we carry on, some running, others volunteering to do what they can because it is difficult to find someone who has not, in some way been touched by cancer.

Cindy Saucier is one such person. She has been an organizer of the Russell version of the run for 30 years, partly because of Terry Fox, and partly because of someone she has lost. “I mean, that’s why I got involved,” said Saucier. “Because, you know, I lost my dad to cancer. And, yeah, I’m just always so inspired by Terry Fox. I mean when you think about it, he ran, sometimes more than a marathon daily. And he ran at one point 26 miles every day for 23 days straight.”

The warm fall weather has coaxed a few more people to come out and run, but Saucier says that the way the community is growing there should be more. The Russell Township run has two starting points: one in Russell and the other in Embrun.

“So far, yes, people are still registering, they dribble in all morning (until noon.) This morning online, we had already raised over $13,000 (late in the day it had risen to $16,230). Last year, we raised $20,000. I’m hoping with all of this, and then the schools, their total goes into the total. We’ve just always had a start in both villages. I do feel, you know, the village is growing, and there should be more because it’s a big community. Where’s all these people, you know, come on out, get to know your community and get to participate in an event that’s happening simultaneously in both villages.”

According to Saucier the Russell Run has raised close to $400,000 in total over the years. “We always have a dedication,” says Saucier. “So, this year we dedicated it to Dini Patrick from Russell, who passed away in March, and Jillian Gifford in Embrun. Jillian has the same cancer that Terry had. She’s a 16-year-old girl and she’s going out there with a survivor’s shirt. She’s got team Gifford out there today with her.”

Russell Coun. Lisa Deacon was in attendance, lending her support. The mayor and other members of council had been present earlier. There seems to be no shortage of volunteers for this, and other events that take place in Russell, and she was asked what builds a community with such a strong spirit of volunteerism.

“I think that from what I’ve seen here in Russell in the village of Russell, particularly, that I think if you ran a study, this would be one of the most active volunteer communities in our country,” said Deacon. “And I think there’s a few reasons for that geographically, where we find ourselves kind of close to Ottawa, but not really Ottawa, still a bit of an isolated, small village. I think that that plays a big role of it, the farming the agricultural roots, you know, the old farming families, who for centuries built barns together and got together at church on Sunday and those sorts of traditions. You see that carrying through in our local fair, our Terry Fox Run is a great example of that as well.”

That is a very good thing, because when you are fighting such a strong opponent as cancer, you need all the help you can get.