Rotary Club of White Rock president Jaqui Joys (left)

Rotary Club of White Rock president Jaqui Joys (left)

Terry Fox’s influence spans the globe

Rotary Club of White Rock's Ramona Kaptyn reflects on the 2002 Terry Fox Run in Hanoi, Vietnam, which she helped organize

What Ramona Kaptyn remembers most about her first Terry Fox Run in Vietnam was the heat.

“Temperatures went over 35 degrees celsius that day and the humidity made it feel much worse,” said the Rotary Club of White Rock member, of the 2002 run she helped organize.

“I was dripping with sweat, much to the amusement of many of my students, who felt it was just another sunny September day.”

Kaptyn, a former journalist-turned-teacher-turned-hotel manager, was living in Vietnam at the time, teaching hotel management and tourism at Hanoi Open University, when the idea of hosting a Terry Fox Run was first broached to her by a fellow Canadian, who – like Kaptyn – was also serving on the board of the Canada-Vietnam Business Association.

Kaptyn said her students, and other Hanoi residents she’d met, had something of an idea of who Terry Fox was, and many had heard something about a run in his honour, but that was the extent of their knowledge of Fox, who embarked on his famous cross-Canada run in 1980, ending after 143 days when his cancer spread.

“They knew of him, but the idea of raising money for something through a walk or a run was a fairly new concept for them,” Kaptyn explained. “They thought we were something to do with the government.”

Terry Fox Runs had been staged in Vietnam before, in Ho Chi Minh City – more than 1,700 km south of Hanoi. But the Hanoi event went well, despite the heat and another problem Kaptyn and organizers hadn’t anticipated – littering.

The CVBA had talked a local bottled-water company into donating cases of water for participants, but most runner through the bottles aside after a few gulps.

“It was customary in Vietnam to litter at that time because it provided work for the street cleaners who came around afterward,” Kaptyn said.

“’If we don’t throw things on the street,’ explained my students, ‘there will be no work for the cleaners. Would you like to see that?’”

Proceeds from the first event went towards cancer treatment centres in Hanoi, and in later runs – Kaptyn lived there nearly three years – the money went to cancer research.

The Terry Fox Run continues in Hanoi, which is something Kaptyn takes pride in.

“It’s left a legacy there in Hanoi, so that’s pretty neat,” she said. “Terry Fox was just such a tremendous Canadian, and left such a legacy himself.”

The Terry Fox Run, now in its 32nd year, is now held annually in nearly 30 countries, and includes more than 1.9 million international participants. In Canada, more than 9,000 runs are held each September, and more than $600 million has been raised thus far for cancer research.

Closer to home, the Terry Fox Run, hosted by the Rotary Club of White Rock, will be held on the Peninsula this Sunday, at the South Surrey Athletic Park. Two run/walk distances are offered, either 1.6-km or six-km, and the event begins at 9 a.m. (on-site registration at 8 a.m.). Entry is by donation, and its recommended participants collect pledges in advance. The event usually draws between 200 and 250 participants each year, event organizer Van Scofield said.

North of Newton, registration begins at Bear Creek Park (next to the Pavillion, accessed from parking lot off 88 Avenue) at 8 a.m., also beginning at 9 a.m. Participants can choose 10-km, 5-m or 1-km, and on-leash dogs are welcome.

There is no entry fee and no minimum donation for either event.

For more information on the Terry Fox Run, or to pledge online, visit

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