The tradition continues
Duggan family hosts 22nd Terry Fox Run
It was a chance meeting almost four decades ago that Leo Duggan will never forget.
The retired educator was teaching at St. Mary’s Academy in Sherbrooke, at the time, when he made a stop one day at Feltmate’s Store.
Duggan met a young man and started to chat with him and his companions, hearing the story of why they were passing through rural Nova Scotia.
It was Terry Fox.
“I hadn’t heard that much about him,” Leo said of the athlete and his Marathon of Hope, which was aimed at raising money for cancer research.
Fox, who lost his right leg to cancer as a teenager, started the cross-canada marathon in early April, 1980, when he dipped his prosthetic limb into the Atlantic Ocean.
When it began, and by the time he reached his second province and that stop in Sherbrooke, most Canadians — much like Duggan — still knew little about Fox and what would become his iconic and worldchanging effort.
“It was an amazing experience,” Leo said of their time together on the following morning.
After the initial encounter, the then physical education teacher — along with his students — ran with Fox, as he continued his way along Highway #7.
Although the Marathon of Hope ended later that year in Thunder Bay, Ontario, after 143 days and more than 3,339 miles, when Fox had to go the hospital with chest pain and coughing. His cancer had returned and was in his lungs.
From there, Canadians took up the torch for Fox, when it came to raising monies, including as participants in and supporters of the Terry Fox Run.
Leo was one of them — he travelled to Antigonish for several years to run in the annual event.
“He said, ‘Why don’t we have one here?’” Janet remembered of her husband’s idea to host a run at their Upper South River, Antigonish County home.
It would be safe to assume Fox would have loved the setting.
As you made your way up the Duggan’s driveway on a sunny late summer Sunday morning last month (Sept. 16), there was plenty to see.
Their yard was a beehive of activity, as family and friends of all ages prepared to head out on the 10k route on neighbouring dirt roads.
It was the 22nd time that the couple welcomed the community to participate in the Terry Fox Run.
“Everyone has been really, really supportive,” Janet said of the help provided by family and friends throughout the years.
It has also become a third generation celebration, with the Duggans’ grandchildren now pitching in.
Photo collages hung from a string draped between trees in the front yard; snap shots in time cataloging moments of a more than two-decade connection to the annual fundraiser.
Along with that collection, the monies raised have grown — the family-led gathering has amassed more than $20,000.
Of course, the financial boost for cancer research is about much more, including bringing friends and neighbours together.
“We don’t have a community hall here, so it has provided an opportunity for people to gather,” Janet said.
As a poignant reflection of how the Duggan family run in honour of Fox has been embraced by so many, they came together to help stage the 22nd event, when it was uncertain if it would take place.
“We weren’t sure what we were going to do, but everyone was there for us,” Janet said, with a smile.
It was a health challenge for the couple that brought about the uncertainty. Leo is battling ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Before participants hit the trail that morning; some on foot — walking and running — and others on two wheels, Laura, the youngest Duggan child, reflected on her parents’ perseverance and commitment.
“It is pretty inspiring,” she said.
Leo and Janet Duggan hosted their 22nd Terry Fox Run in Upper South River, Antigonish County Sept. 16, which attracted another strong turnout (top).
Some participants rode in style during the Terry Fox Run hosted by Leo and Janet Duggan in Upper South River, Antigonish County.
Whether on foot or two wheels, participants hit the trail for the annual Duggan family Terry Fox Run.
The third generation, including Sarah Hickey (left) Leo Michael Duggan and Julia Fowlow, is now helping with the annual Duggan family Terry Fox Run.