The Legacy of Terry Fox: An Interview with Leslie Scrivener | The Canadian Encyclopedia


The Legacy of Terry Fox: An Interview with Leslie Scrivener

Leslie Scrivener describes meeting Terry for the first time and being struck by his optimism and focus in an April 2015 interview with Historica Canada.


There was first, this youthfulness and with that came optimism and hope and energy and excitement and a belief that anything is possible. And he really believed that he would cross Canada within six months. He thought it would be done in six months.


So Terry goes to bed around seven at night and he gets up around four. It’s still dark. He comes out of — we are staying at the Poplar Motel and he kind of comes out, just like kids are; he comes out kind of sleepy and we are all waiting in the van for Terry. You know you are a little nervous, a little chatty and obviously you are not supposed to say a word. He crawls into the back of the van, curls himself up in a sleeping bag and we are silent.

We drive to the pile of rocks. No one says anything. He gets out and what I remember is this beautiful, beautiful Eastern Ontario farmland and I remember the silos of the farm and I remember the moon still being high. So this was June 29th so just the real start of summer. The moon was so bright, there were shadows and you could see livestock in the field and Terry doesn’t say a word. He gets out and starts running in the moonlight toward dawn. It was just — I guess he was running away from dawn because he was going west. But it was beautiful and he said he loved — he remembers that moment — we talked about it after — he remembered that moment. He said that was one of the best days. The calm, the quiet, him running, which is what he loved to do and there was no one around.

And then they would stop out in some field; some farmer’s field somewhere off the side of the road and he would eat a lot. The guys would sort of snooze in the van and Terry would have a little bit of a rest. But you know it is the height of summer; all the wildflowers tall, the farmers’ fields and the quiet. So I think that that’s what they experienced a lot. What we saw because of the films, we would see the craziness; the crowds, the cheering and the encouragement. But when I think back I think this was a large part of it - the solitary runner on quiet country roads.


Oh my goodness, they were boys. They were just boys, I mean Darrell was 17 and Terry was just 21, Doug also. So they were goofballs. They had food fights. I’m not joking, they had food fights. And what was very interesting to me was the way that Terry could switch off that intensity. Once he was finished running, he became a normal Canadian boy doing what normal Canadian boys do; interested in sports, hungry, curious and funny. And you know that for his birthday, they gave him a toilet seat; that’s ridiculous.


There was also his incredible empathy for others and of course this is at the core of what drove him because he saw suffering in children. So there was the wisdom that comes from that experience and there was that empathy that comes from caring for others. And then there is this great love of humanity to want to do something for others, and that is what drove him, too. Because he had survived, he wanted to give back. So for those reasons, he was older and more experienced than the average 21-year-old, but you balance that with an innocent young person, too. A boy who loves sports.

So all of those qualities combine into this extraordinary exceptional young Canadian; so rare.


So he had this incredible — he had this great capacity to attract worthy, reliable, experienced people to him. So the enduring nature of the Terry Fox run in that it brings people in from — brings people in from every walk of life. If you go running here in Toronto, you will see beautiful Sikh young men in their turbans and you will see young North Toronto moms and their beautiful strollers and you will see, old, old people really creeping along. And every time I see that I am just so astounded by the breadth of those who have — the breadth of the number of people who have joined in.

So that has contributed to the sort of adding to the gravity and the depth of what he started. And he is known around the world. They have runs — a million people in Cuba run, a million.


(…) the role model he became for athletes with disabilities is quite incredible and he wore this very primitive device, but I have spoken to para-athletes who talk about how inspiring he is to them. And also this in the sense of modelling; he was the first one to show his bare prosthesis and it was ugly. And it was clear I’ve lost a leg I’m still an athlete. I have lost a leg. I can still achieve — so the ripple effect of that is tremendous for the following generation of amputees.

Terry Fox
Terry Fox

Donate to The Canadian Encyclopedia this Giving Tuesday!

A donation to The Canadian Encyclopedia today will have an even greater impact due to a generous matching gift from an anonymous donor. Starting November 28 until December 5, 2023, all donations will be matched up to $10,000! All donations above $3 will receive a tax receipt. Thank you for your support of The Canadian Encyclopedia, a project of Historica Canada.