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Terry Fox's message resonates in a big way with Cubans

Terry Fox's message resonates in a big way with Cubans

Posted by PanamericanWorld on September 21, 2015

Many Canadians have participated in Terry Fox runs last weekend, but beyond our borders, no country celebrates the legacy of Terry Fox with as much gusto as Cuba.

Last year, the Terry Fox Foundation estimated that two million Cubans took part in Terry Fox runs across the island nation, which has a population of about 11 million people.

"You can ask pretty much anybody who Terry Fox is, and they'll be able to tell you that he is a hero who put cancer on the map," said Toronto social worker Paul Larrondo.

Larrondo knows firsthand the adoration Cubans have for Terry Fox. She saw it as a volunteer who brought medical supplies to the country, and in 2010, she brought the Fox family to Cuba so they could see it for themselves.

Family visits

What started as a small event with a few hundred people 17 years ago has grown to become a national phenomenon in Cuba.

Cuba's Terry Fox runs occur every March in over 5,000 cities and towns across the country, and begin with a 10 a.m. call to start from a radio station.

Larrondo says Cubans have taken to Terry Fox's story because they see a similarity between his story of struggle with their own, and because they treasure their health care system so dearly.

A photo from the Fox family's 2010 trip to Cuba. Betty Fox is in the front row centre, and trip organizer Paula Larrondo is at right. (St. Joseph's Health Centre)

Larrondo began the work of bringing the Fox family to Cuba when she met with Cuban diplomats, who she said had long wished for a visit from the Fox family.

When the family came in 2010, she said they were recognized by almost everyone they met and were "completely overwhelmed" by the reception.

"It was a very emotional experience, I think particularly for Betty Fox. It was her last international trip before she passed herself," she said. "When their flight arrived in Havana, they stopped the international baseball game just to announce their arrival."

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