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Terry Fox was offered a car to run with Mr. Peanut. He said he’d wear the mascot himself, author reveals

Front and centre on the cover of Bill Vigars’s new book, Terry & Me: The Inside Story of the Marathon of Hope, is a photo of Terry Fox smiling. 

“I think people remember Terry from the picture of him running with pain, the look of pain on his face,” Vigars told CBC’s On the Coast host Gloria Macarenko on Aug. 29. 

“But I remember him with the smile.” 

The book, released on Aug. 29, is about the Marathon of Hope from Vigars’s perspective as he accompanied Fox.

Vigars, a White Rock, B.C., resident and former director of public relations and fundraising for the Canadian Cancer Society, met Fox in 1980 in New Brunswick.

It had been 50 days since the 21-year-old cancer survivor and amputee dipped his prosthetic leg into the Atlantic in St. John’s to kick off the cross-country marathon, intended to raise awareness and funding for cancer research. 

From the moment they met, Vigars thought, “This guy’s going to do it. He is for real.”

On The Coast8:08Terry and Me: The Inside Story of Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope

Bill Vigars, the author of Terry and Me: The Inside Story of Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope, says he and his family became very close with Terry on his historic run.

Vigars helped Fox raise awareness of the marathon, which eventually raised $24 million over the 143 days Fox ran across Canada.

But Fox was not willing to gain any attention for himself, Vigars says, turning down several offers of corporate sponsorship.

The cover of Bill Vigars book Terry & Me, features a black and white photograph of Terry Fox smiling
Author Bill Vigars’s new book features never-before-heard anecdotes from cancer survivor and amputee Terry Fox’s cross-country run. (Sutherland House Publishing)

An unlikely collaboration

According to Vigars, one of the more amusing incidents during Fox’s 5,373-kilometre journey was when Mr. Peanut, the dapper mascot for Planters peanuts, proposed an unlikely collaboration. 

The brand offered to buy Fox a brand new car if the mascot were allowed to run the last mile with him in Vancouver. 

“He looks up and he goes, ‘You know Bill, that’s a really good idea. I’m going to do that as long as I can wear the Mr. Peanut costume myself,'” Vigars said.

a black and white photo of Terry Fox wearing a t-shirt that says Give for Cancer Research and Bill Vigars is in the background. There is dark car parked beside them.
Bill Vigars, seen here to the right, in the background, worked with the Canadian Cancer Society to help Terry Fox raise awareness for the Marathon of Hope. (Gail Harvey)

It never actually happened, but Vigars says the anecdote shows not only Fox’s sense of humour but also his selflessness.

“He was very clear that he wanted to benefit in absolutely no way on what he was doing. He just had one message, raise money for cancer research.” 

Although Fox is a household name today — with an annual run in his honour, a coin, a stamp, and schools named after him — it was a struggle at first to get attention for his cause. 

Vigars says the Port Coquitlam athlete had big dreams of meeting hockey player, Bobby Orr, then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau, and going to a Blue Jays game, which all seemed far-fetched at the time. 

But Fox eventually got all of his wishes. After people got to know him, more people started noticing and making donations, Vigars says.

He says people appreciated Fox’s sincerity. “[With] Terry Fox, every word came from the heart.” 

‘I can quit anytime, but the people with cancer can’t’

Vigar says Fox’s dedication was the result of time spent at a Vancouver clinic’s cancer ward. 

“Watching little kids, some of them not making it — that’s what kept him running every day,” Vigars said.

“He would say ‘I can quit anytime I want, but the people with cancer can’t. They got to keep fighting and I’m going to keep going.'”

Black and white photo of Terry Fox having a meal with people from the Canadian Cancer Society Team.
Canadian Cancer Society District directors Lou Fine and Jack Lambert (both pictured right), share a joke with Patrick, Bill Vigars’s son (far left), while Doug Awlard, Terry’s driver, looks on. At the back, Bill’s daughter Kerry-Anne watches as Terry Fox and Bill play catch-the-French fry. (Gail Harvey)

Fox’s marathon came to an end after he was forced off his route in Thunder Bay, Ont. His cancer spread to his lungs and he died a few months later on June 28, 1981.

Vigars says his book is his way of allowing readers to feel what it was like in the van, near Fox as he ran the Marathon of Hope.

“I hope I bring him alive to the people who read the book.”

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