Terry Fox & Bill Vigars
Bill Vigars shares stories from the Marathon of Hope
Bill Vigars played an important role
in Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope. In 1980, Vigars was the Director of Public
Relations and Fundraising for the Canadian Cancer Society's Ontario Division,
who acted as Terry Fox's public relations organizer, his close friend and
confidante. He set up several key events as the Run entered Toronto and also
provided levity. Vigars was recently interviewed to share his thoughts on the
30th Anniversary of the Marathon of Hope.
"I had only been with the Cancer
Society for 3 months, when I received a note around mid April, from my boss
about Terry's quest. At that point I began following him through the news at the
beginning of his Run," Vigars stated. "My first interaction with Terry came when
he called from a payphone in Nova Scotia. He was a little down, as things
weren't going as planned and I wanted to boost his spirits. I asked him how I
could help him in Ontario and he mentioned events that might involve the CN
Tower, the Toronto Blue Jays and his hockey heroes Darryl Sittler and Bobby
It was in Edmundston, NB, that
Vigars first met Terry. "I took a few days off and drove there to meet Terry,
brother Darryl and best friend Doug Alward. After sleeping for awhile in the
back of my car, I rolled out of the vehicle at 4:00 AM to greet Darryl Fox. He
inquisitively asked, "You're the guy from the Cancer Society?"
"The next 4 days, I spent in the
van, trying to get their routine down pat. Terry struck me as a regular guy who
was incredibly determined, focused and who saw the run as an athletic feat.
Terry moved individuals and crowds as he spoke from the heart and had an
incredible intensity of purpose," Vigars shared. "He also really enjoyed the
company of children, a good debate and had a great dry sense of humour.
One thing that struck Vigars along
the tour, was how emotional it was. "We heard stories all along the route from
people who had lost friends and family to cancer. You could see the emotion in
their eyes as they gave support to Terry. It was tough".
Bill Vigars at 2010 Women's Gold Medal Game
Throughout the Run, an interesting
trend was noted. Dollars that were collected in hats, garbage bags or anything
else, were often crumpled. "What was happening," Vigars explained, "is that
people waited along the routes, sometimes for a few hours and there was so much
emotion in anticipation of seeing Terry, that they ended up clutching their
donations in their hands until he arrived."
Vigars and the boys also had a
number of light moments on this journey. They had downtime during breakfasts and
lunches and an occasional food or water fight would break out. Vigars recalls
one day when Doug put soy sauce down Terry's shirt, while Terry responded by
pouring rice down Doug's shorts.
Brother Darryl provided regular comic relief. During the Run through Toronto, Vigars remembers Darryl Sittler
running behind Terry with Darryl Fox along University Avenue. Girls would
scream, "Darryl, Darryl". Darryl Fox commented to Sittler, that young one is
calling for me; the older one is calling for you!
Among other memorable moments,
Vigars laughed about the dinner Terry had with Bobby Orr. "Their salads had
arrived and Orr excused himself to go to the bathroom. As he left, Terry took
one of Orr's croutons off his plate and ate it. He was pleased that he could say
he took a crouton from Bobby Orr, something he could tell his grand kids
When it was found in Thunder Bay,
Ont. that Terry's cancer had returned, Vigars was devastated. "I didn't see it
coming and I was lost for weeks."
Today, Vigars resides in Vancouver,
BC and ponders the 30th Anniversary of the Marathon of Hope. "Initially, I had
concerns that the Run would fade, but back in '85 around the Beaches in Toronto,
I saw terrific support from the schools. I attribute a lot to the school system
for supporting the annual Terry Fox Runs so that his incredible story will get
passed along to future generations.