Passing the Terry Fox torch

This Sunday's run will be the last organized by Betty Levens.

Ali Wakeling and Betty Levens do much of the legwork behind the local Terry Fox Run.

Ali Wakeling and Betty Levens do much of the legwork behind the local Terry Fox Run.

After 15 years of organizing the local Terry Fox Run, Betty Levens will be passing the torch.

Starting next year, Pitt Meadows resident Ali Wakeling will continue Levens’ legacy.

“It feels great. I’ve had a wonderful time doing it all these years,” Levens said.

“I’m getting too old to do this. I’m 79/ Come on, do I have to do it  again?” She laughed, adding that she will continue to help in other capacities.

But she will miss the people she’s worked with.

“We’ve been really lucky because we’ve got so many people in the group who have done the same thing year after year. So you just phone and ask, ‘Are you going to do this?’ And then you don’t have to worry anymore. It makes it so much easier.”

Levens has been an ardent organizer of the event since 1999, the year Ali and her husband, Sandy, who lost his own battle to cancer last year, started helping out.

Sandy Wakeling was well known in the community as another dedicated organizer of the run.

“He and I used to sit down, just the two of us and [the run] grew from there,” said Levens.

“He loved this community and he loved this event,” continued Ali.

“It should be him doing this. But I am happy to work with this team. It is a great group of people,” she said.

Wakeling remembers herself as a 10-year-old impressionable girl watching the Marathon of Hope on television with her family in Port Coquitlam. Now she is taking it upon herself to make sure the next generation of Canadians and those new to the country don’t forget the Terry Fox story.

This Sunday’s run starts and finishes at the Hammond Community Centre soccer field at 20601 Westfield Avenue. Registration is at 8:30 a.m. and the run starts at 10 a.m. with 10-kilometre, five km and one km route for people of all abilities. Cyclists, wheelchairs, strollers, roller blades and dogs on leashes are all welcome.

Last year, 658 people took part in the event, raising more than $29,000.

There is no entry fee and no minimum donation.

“It is a rain or shine event and I think it is important for people to remember that Terry ran through all kinds of weather while on those crappy shoes,” said Wakeling.

Cancer survivor Trina Munday will be speaking this year, along with Fred Fox, Terry’s brother.

There is a little anxiety between Wakeling and Levens about the teacher’s strike and how it will affect fundraising this year.

In addition to the usual build up in the schools for the community run, there is the Terry Fox national School Run Day, this year to be held on Sept. 24.

“They make more money in the schools than we do now in this area,” Levens said. “You know how many times I ask people,’Do you want to make a donation?  [And they say), ‘Oh I give it to my grandchildren.’”

The money still ends up in the same place.

However, Wakeling thinks that even if the strike ends, there won’t be a run for students on the national school run day this year. There won’t be enough time.

But she is hopeful that schools will still hold their runs either later in the year or even the spring of next year.

“The foundation is encouraging that, promoting that, particularly schools in British Columbia [that] are very important to the foundation,” said Wakeling.

Levens has no advice for Wakeling. She is confident the right person is taking charge.

As for Wakeling, she is ready for the challenge, already planning big changes for next year’s run to include Pitt Meadows.

Plus, she laughs, she already has Levens on speed dial. She knows where to find her.

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Maple Ridge News