Kelowna Terry Fox Run holds special place for co-organizers

Norm and Christina Sabourin had a close relationship with the Fox family thanks to more than 20 years of volunteering

Christina Sabourin with Terry Fox's shirt and other memorabilia from a 20 year stint with the Terry Fox Run.

For 20 years, husband and wife team Norm and Christina Sabourin organized the Terry Fox run in the communities of Midway, Greenwood and Rock Creek.

Per capita the runs were a major success, raising enough funds with enough dedication that the couple eventually met members of Terry Fox’s family, including his brother Fred, a one time provincial coordinator and public speaker, who was a support member during Terry’s run.

They became friends and on one occasion, Fred presented the Sabourin’s with a shirt that Terry had worn on his marathon of hope.

“I was absolutely dumbfounded, I had trouble even accepting it,” said Norm this week of the gift. “It felt like something I didn’t deserve in any way. For me, this is my prized possession. It’s a connection to Terry. (seeing the shirt) brings out an emotional response in people, to think this is the shirt Terry wore. It’s a piece of history. It makes you think of the ideals Terry held dear to him: That cancer can be beaten and if we work hard we can achieve our dreams.”

A few years ago, the Sabourin’s moved to Kelowna and took some years off from organizing the run and instead took part as runners. But this past year, when the Kelowna run was in need of an organizer, the Terry Fox Foundation knew who the right people were for the job.

So this year the Sabourin’s are run coordinators of a much larger event, the Keowna Terry Fox Run, being held this Sunday morning at the H2O Centre.

“For me this is a calling,” said Norm, an elementary teacher who starts each school year by teaching about Terry Fox, and his incredible marathon of hope. “Every year I’ve taught Terry Fox as a significant part of my curriculum in September. Not only the history of Terry but all he stood for, which are huge lifelong lessons not only for kids but for people. The idea of working hard, never giving up, being selfless and the idea of finding a cure for cancer.”

The Sabourin’s have taken the shirt—size medium and preserved inside a glass case—out into the Central Okanagan, from Peachland to Lake Country, as a way to promote the run and give people a chance to see a part of Terry Fox’s legacy and connect with the late hero.

“Terry bonded Canadians across the country because of what he did,” said Christina. “We fell in love with him. He didn’t want anyone to make him out as a hero. He was just a normal guy doing what he thought he had to do.”

Christina related a story about Terry Fox in the time before he embarked on the marathon of hope. He was just 18 and was in Vancouver hospital with all of the other children. It was at that time that something stirred in him and he was motivated to do something.

“That really changes his viewpoint,” she said. “He realized these children were going to have to go through what he was going through. He was an incredible inspiration to millions and he still is.”

This year’s Terry Fox Run is in the sports fields next to H2O. Registration is at 10 a.m. but you can register online at terryfox.org, donate to the run and save time Sunday morning. There will be live music and plenty of activity, thanks to close to 150 volunteers including students from Dr. Knox middle school’s leadership class.

The run begins at 11 a.m. with three distances: 1.5, 5 and 9 km.

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