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Terry and Me

The Inside Story Of Terry And The Marathon Of Hope

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Story by Joe Leary

Now, in just his second year at the helm, he has clearly illustrated that his passion for the club is sincere and his support for the CFL is unwavering. It’s something you dream about since you’re a child, really, he says of his desire to purchase the team. I love football and have always loved the BC Lions.

I grew up on the Island so there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to get over to Vancouver for games but when we did it was special.

I always thought in the back of my mind if there was ever an opportunity for me to get this done, it would be fantastic.

As Director of Fundraising and Public Relations for the Canadian Cancer Society of Ontario, Vigars had been informed that there was this kid running across Canada and was asked to go see what he could do for him.


That opportunity was sealed when he purchased the team from the estate of previous owner David Braley. Braley, who owned the BC Lions from 1997 until his death in 2020, was passionate about the CFL, and made it clear that he wanted the team to remain in the hands of dedicated local partners.

Photo by Michael Floman

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“That’s how I remember Terry”

It was only the beginning and in my heart, I felt his example, determination, and courageous run would grow to become something bigger.

Fox continued to endure the physical hardship, and public support quickly swelled with Vigars’s help as attention soon reached international heights.

Sadly, Terry’s Marathon of Hope came to an abrupt end on September 1, 1980, after he collapsed outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario.

A diagnosis had shown that that cancer had spread to his lungs. Bill Vigars will never forget that day. “I, along with all of Canada, was shattered with the news, yet even before the emergency flight to return him home left the tarmac, I knew that this was not the end of the Marathon of Hope,” he says. “It was only the beginning and in my heart, I felt his example, determination,  and courageous run would grow to become something bigger.” It did indeed.

Terry Fox passed away on June 28, 1981, but his legacy has exceeded any possible

Expectations. He became the youngest person to be bestowed the Companion of the Order of Canada, in addition to twice being named Canadian of the Year. Public support for his image to grace Canadian currency continues to gain support while Terry Fox Runs are held annually in cities, towns and hamlets across Canada. To this day, the Marathon of Hope has generated more than $850 million, and that number is projected to hit a billion dollars in 2024.

Despite the grueling undertaking Terry endured, Bill Vigars cherishes those memories of that special time in his life, and of the incredible human being and spirit that touched the lives of Canadians for generations to come. When people think of Terry they think of his concentration and determination and that pain on his face, says Vigars. But I remember a different guy. At the end of the day, Terry had a very dry sense of humor and was unbelievably friendly, had a great smile and we all played pranks to lighten the mood at that time.

That’s how I remember Terry. And as for what Terry Fox would think of what he accomplished in his short life, but more importantly of the impact he left on a nation, Bill Vigars is quick to suggest. He would never believe what his legacy would become, not just Canada-wide but around the world, says Vigars. His decision at such a young age to rise above his fate won the hearts of a nation. 43 years later he’s still with us, still running on those long lonely Canadian highways. I hope reading Terry and Me puts you in the passenger’s seat of his van so that you may share his journey.

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