Terry Fox 2022: Together we are Stronger!

Muscat: The American International School of Muscat (TAISM) hosted its annual Terry Fox event on Thursday to help raise money and awareness for cancer research at Sultan Qaboos University Hospital. This year, the event raised over OMR 4000

The annual Run for Terry Fox has been a TAISM tradition since 2007. The event has raised over OMR63,000 for cancer research at Sultan Qaboos University over its 16 year span.

What is the Terry Fox Run?
Terry Fox was a Canadian diagnosed with osteosarcoma at 18, leading to the loss of his leg and igniting a drive to help find a cure for cancer.  From the Terry Fox Foundation website: “Terry started training and planning for his cross-Canada run to raise funds for cancer research. He dipped his artificial leg in the Atlantic Ocean on April 12, 1980 and proceeded to unite Canadians in a way never before, nor since, seen. The only thing that could have stopped Terry from reaching the Pacific Ocean did. Cancer returned in his lungs and he was forced to stop on September 1st, 1980 after having run 5,373 kilometers.

"Before his death on June 28, 1981, Terry had achieved his once unimaginable goal of $1 from every Canadian. More importantly, he had set in motion the framework for an event, The Terry Fox Run, that would ignite cancer research in Canada, raising more than $850 million since 1980, and bring hope and health to millions of Canadians.”

“When I was four years old, Terry Fox ran through my home town in Nova Scotia,” says Laura MacDonald, the organiser of the run at TAISM for the last 12 years.   

“Before we went to cheer him on, my parents had explained to me that he was a hero, so I was expecting to see someone who looked like Superman.  When I saw Terry run by, he looked more like my older brother.  That forever changed what the word hero meant to me. Now I know that heroes are just ordinary people who step up to help others, in whatever way they can. That’s really what I hope our students at TAISM learn from our Terry Fox efforts.”

Laura is not alone in her passion for continuing Terry’s legacy and chasing after his vision of a world without cancer. At TAISM, a team of passionate volunteers plan and host the event in partnership with the Terry Fox Foundation.

This foundation coordinates events at an international level in memory of Terry, helping schools and organisations coordinate events and connect with local cancer research efforts for donations.  TAISM is one (perhaps the only) school that gets to personally know the beneficiaries of the funds; in fact, Dr Sirin and her team of researchers invited students from the High School STEM Club to visit the lab and watch cancer research happening up close.

What sort of cancer research is funded by the TAISM Terry Fox Run?
The Terry Fox Foundation is a highly regulated charity based in Canada that supports cancer research and helps countries around the world to receive funding if they are running an approved study.

The money raised doesn’t even have to go to Canada at all, as long as the study meets the strict requirements. Until 2019, TAISM Terry Fox donations funded the creation of the only database in the country for childhood leukaemia.

TAISM donations paid for the computers, the software and the training for using the database, which was used to study and improve treatment protocols here in Oman.

Because of the database, the survival rate for A.L.L., the most common type of childhood leukemia, rose from 20-30%, to nearly 80%, which is comparable to the best treatment centers anywhere.

Since 2020, our donations have been funding a study headed by Dr. Sirin Yaeesh, investigating why the average onset of breast cancer in Omani women is 47, compared with 65 in the West.  Results of this study will be announced soon.

For TAISM students, the event is much more than a one-day run. Early in November, each older student is paired with a younger “Courage Buddy”, and they learn together about Terry’s perseverance and vision, about the power of research in the battle against cancer, about the importance of giving back to the community, and working together to make a difference.

Courage Buddies also create special secret handshakes and attend school assemblies together. Some buddies even run together during the Terry Fox Run.

The main way funds are donated is through t-shirt sales, but members of the community also give generously through fundraisers, organised across three schools at TAISM: High School (through student-run basketball shootouts and a head shave in solidarity with those who’ve lost hair during cancer treatment), Middle School (through selling uniquely designed stickers in line with each year’s theme) and Elementary School (who decorate their cafeteria with colored cutouts for donations).  

“One of the main attributes we focus on at TAISM, and look to exemplify to our students, is called being a ‘Contributing Community Member’”, says Kevin Schafer, School Director at TAISM.  “Throughout the Terry Fox Run and the programming leading up to the day, each student at TAISM has opportunities to contribute time, pocket money, and even their own physical energy to this huge goal.  It’s an excellent opportunity for all students to collaborate together for something bigger than all of us.”

While the need is the same annually, the theme changes each year. This year’s theme focuses on the importance of strengthening relationships and coming together after the pandemic. Honoring both the individual but also the incredible power of community, this year’s theme is “Alone I am Strong, but Together we are STRONGER!”    

As Mother Teresa said: “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.”  If Terry was alive today, he would certainly love to see families giving generously to fund the work of a brilliant team of cancer researchers in their pursuit of the cure for cancer,  and young scientists being inspired by a visit to the cancer research lab.  Together we are STRONGER!

Find out more about Terry Fox at TAISM! Click below for a radio interview on TFM 94.5.