TORONTO – Marathon of Hope runner Terry Fox’s attempted cross-Canada run to raise money for cancer research earned him a place on Canada’s Walk of Fame on Saturday and drew the loudest cheers, 33 years after his tragic death.
A legion of fans endured a steady drizzle outside Toronto’s Elgin Theatre and came as far away as British Columbia to chant the name of the late one-legged athlete and humanitarian.
“We’re so proud,” said Rolland “Rolly” Fox, Terry’s father, who collected the honour on his son’s behalf and wore Terry’s image on his lapel.
The elder Fox believes his son would have felt “honoured” by his induction, but despite Terry’s indelible and visible impact — with the annual Terry Fox Run now raising millions worldwide — he would, as a father, have no hesitation in taking it all back. In fact, Rolly’s late wife, Betty, once called the famed run a “stupid thing to want to do.”
“It’s true that if Betty and I could have talked him out of it, we would have,” said Fox. “But he was of age, and there was no way we could’ve stopped him. He would have gone regardless.
“The fight against cancer continues, and one day we will have a cure for all cancers.”
It was an odd and varied crowd indeed that came out for the Walk of Fame induction ceremony, a testament to the diverse eight-person class of famous Canadians awarded stars this year.
Young people armed with camera phones came to glimpse pop songbird Carly Rae Jepsen, who was not inducted but was on hand to receive the Allan Slaight Award; others were clad in Team Canada red and cheered on Olympic hero and inductee Christine Sinclair; others still came out in support of music producer Bob Ezrin, actors Victor Garber and Alan Thicke, human-rights advocates Craig and Marc Kielburger, and the late pianist Oscar Peterson.
Peterson and Fox are the two posthumous inductees this year, a rare exception from the one-per-year rule in recognition of the Walk of Fame’s 15th anniversary. Though jazz music finds its roots in the American south, Peterson was born in Montreal; he passed away in 2007.
“Very often, people did think he was American, because of the music, but he would always sit up straight and say, ‘No, Canada’s my home,’” said Kelly Peterson, Oscar’s wife.
“When he was encouraged to move to Los Angeles or New York, he would always say, ‘No, I want to go home.”
“I absolutely feel my father here today. How could you not?” added daughter Celine Peterson.
The rain could not dampen the mood of the other inductees, either.
“I didn’t expect my star to be rained on so quickly,” quipped actor Alan Thicke, speaking to the crowd on an outdoor stage. “We are so proud that you are proud, and we will continue to do whatever we can in our professional and personal lives to try to make you proud.”
“We started in northern Ontario in a small town where I didn’t even see a television set until I was seven-years-old,” Thicke added in a later interview from the red carpet. “So when you take that moment and fast forward to what I’m experiencing today with my family here and feeling embraced by my country—that’s unique.”
Ezrin, a prolific producer whose work includes albums with shock rocker Alice Cooper and singles with the Canadian rapper K’naan, could barely contain his own excitement. True to musical form, he intermittently broke into song, gleefully telling reporters how special it was that the gala was taking place on the same day as his mother’s birthday and scrawling a long, affectionate inscription on his permanent star: “I love my wife. I love my life. I love Toronto.”
“My wife Jan, she’s my heart. And without her, I don’t know if I’d have the inspiration or the energy to do a lot of the stuff that I do,” said Ezrin, beaming. “This (induction) is kind of like a responsibility, here. They give this to me, and I’m going to use it to try to promote Canadian arts.”
But while Ezrin has worked with some of music’s most famous names, he acknowledged he was in awe of the evening’s biggest star.
“Being inducted on the same day as Terry Fox—I almost don’t feel worthy, honestly, to be in his company. This is a guy who was a true national treasure.”
The awards will be televised on Oct. 27 on Global.