Dear Terry

Claire Champ and Trish Corrigan

If you’ve already had a chance to visit our special exhibition Terry Fox – Running to the Heart of Canada, you’ve likely come across its “Dear Terry” interactive display.

Letter to Terry Fox

Scanned copy of one of the letters sent to Terry Fox during the Marathon of Hope. Susan Moore, courtesy of the family of Terry Fox.

During the early days of the Marathon of Hope, Canadians began sending cards and letters to Terry Fox, and they continued to send him messages of support right up until his death. The family of Terry Fox kept all of the correspondence sent to Terry, which contained thoughtful messages of hope, admiration and goodwill.

Here is a taste of some of the wishes sent to Terry Fox that are included in our exhibition, demonstrating just how closely Canadians connected with Terry right from the start:

  • I hope that one day very soon, cancer will be cured and it will be in part (a very large part) because of you.
  • What an extraordinary and special young man you are. Your courageous and selfless endeavour shall always be a source of inspiration and encouragement for each of us.
  • You are the closest thing to a hero this country has had in a very long time! Please don’t ever give up!
  • Your bravery, courage and determination have helped me. In September, I had to have my left leg amputated due to bone cancer. Ever since I was young, I’ve wanted to be a nurse. I thought of you. I figured if you could run across Canada, I could become a nurse.
  • You’ve really made Canada stand up and take notice, and we’ve never been prouder: everyone is pulling for you.

The exhibition team worked with the Terry Fox Centre, the Museum’s partner for this exhibition, to digitize all of the correspondence. The team also wanted to ensure that the letters were featured prominently in the exhibition, in part to show how profoundly this brave young athlete captured the hearts of his fellow Canadians.

The result was the “Dear Terry” interactive display, a database allowing visitors to browse and search the approximately 65,000 cards and letters sent to Terry Fox by Canadians from all across the country during the Marathon of Hope. Available only in the exhibition itself, “Dear Terry” is surrounded by a cloud of letters, immersing visitors in the emotions and intensity of the thousands of letters Terry received.

Dear Terry interactive display

Photo of the “Dear Terry” interactive display from the special exhibition Terry Fox – Running to the Heart of Canada at the Canadian Museum of History

Beyond the sheer volume of the correspondence, it is striking to see the range of sentiments expressed in these letters of support. In his book Terry (2005), Canadian artist and author Douglas Coupland writes eloquently about the power of these letters, saying, “I thought that after I’d spent a few hours of sifting I’d become immune to the sentiments expressed inside them, but no, I never did and I doubt I ever will. Their messages are too pure and too real. ”

Based on feedback from visitors to the exhibition, it is safe to say that many of them share Coupland’s feelings. Since the exhibition opened on April 1, 2015, the Museum has received many comments from visitors regarding both their positive experiences in the exhibition and their own memories of this remarkable Canadian. We have also been fortunate to hear from some of our visitors about their experiences discovering letters that they or their family members had sent to Terry more than 35 years ago. Some people even found letters they had no memory of writing!

We hope visitors to the exhibition during the holiday season will take a moment to look for letters that they or their relatives may have sent to Terry. The exhibition closes on January 3, 2016.

When visiting the exhibition, did you come across a letter that you or a family member sent to Terry? If so, leave us a comment — we’d love to hear about it.

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