Around this time of year, I would be gushing over the legacy of Terry Fox and the annual Terry Fox Run. I went to www.terryfox.org and bought the book-DVD-coin combo. The book is something that I've wanted to own for some time. Make no mistake... I will forever be a fan of Terry Fox, as he is my idol and one of the main reasons why I found an interest in long distance running... but I thought I'd do something different this year.
I'd like to devote a blog entry to talk about Steve Fonyo. Chances are that you have never heard of Steve Fonyo, but his story is just as tragic as that of Terry Fox... but for entirely different reasons. Like Terry, Steve Fonyo was a Canadian who lost his leg to cancer. Like Terry, Steve Fonyo decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research.
Steve Fonyo's "Journey for Lives" began on March 31 in 1984, about 4 years after Terry Fox had to stop his "Marathon of Hope" in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The Journey for Lives was met with criticism from the media, as they branded Fonyo a "copycat" of Terry Fox. There were allegations that Fonyo was doing the run for selfish reasons and that it would take away from the legacy of Terry Fox. Regardless of whether these allegations were true or not, Steve Fonyo only received a fraction of the public support that Terry Fox did during his run.
Eventually, the Journey of Lives took Steve Fonyo beyond Thunder Bay, and all the way to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Steve Fonyo completed his cross-Canada journey on May 29 of 1985. Later that year, Steve Fonyo was awarded the Order of Canada. He had raised $14 million dollars for cancer research. The beach in British Columbia where the Journey of Lives ended was renamed Fonyo Beach in honour of Steve.
Now you're probably asking the same question I asked when I learned about Steve Fonyo: "How come I've never heard of him before?!?" The same year that he completed the Journey for Lives, Steve's father passed away from lung cancer. Steve became depressed, and the media attention he was now getting was not helping. Even after running across Canada and raising $14 million for cancer research, Steve Fonyo was NOT treated favorably by the media. At this point in his life, Fonyo began making some very bad decisions. In the years that followed, Fonyo got mixed up in alcohol and cocaine. He began getting in trouble with the law. His convictions include assault with a weapon, aggravated assault, fraud, possession of a stolen vehicle, and several impaired driving charges. As recently as this month, he pleaded guilty to one count of assault.
For these reasons, history has quietly swept Steve Fonyo's legacy under the rug, favoring the more saintly legacy of Terry Fox. Some people say that Steve Fonyo got a raw deal, cheated by history after his remarkable achievement. Others say that Steve Fonyo was a selfish copycat who does not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Terry Fox. I am unsure of which camp I belong in... The story of Steve Fonyo is a tragic story of an imperfect human being who accomplished something extraordinary. As I write this, Steve Fonyo may be sitting in a jail cell somewhere. One can only hope that he starts to make some better decisions in life.