Kay Chisholm marks 40 years with Marathon of Hope

By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    
September 16 2020

GUYSBOROUGH – Kay Chisholm has been running or walking for Terry Fox every September for four decades. The retired 76-year-old Public Health Nurse who lives in Havendale, just outside of the village of Guysborough, told The Journal this week that she was always inspired by Fox’s determination to do good for others, despite the pain he must have faced over the long miles on the road.

Keeping Fox’s legacy alive is one of the many reasons Chisholm continues to take part in the annual run/walk that honours the Marathon of Hope. Like many people who support the Terry Fox Run, Chisholm’s own life experience influenced the impact Fox’s goal had in her heart.

“I worked my first six years in hospital, and I worked on a surgery floor. When you see people suffering all you want to do is help them. You’d do anything you can to make them more comfortable. And I think with him (Fox) he saw so much suffering, because he was in the hospital with the surgery he had…the trauma he went through and yet he was so courageous and he was determined that he was going to run across Canada to raise money to help other people,” she said.

In addition to her professional life, Fox’s mission became more personal for Chisholm when less than a decade after the Terry Fox Run started, her mother passed away after a cancer diagnosis. “That just drove me all the more to keep going.”

Twenty-five years into the run, Chisholm was looking for a little boost to keep her going. That came in the form of the Confederation Bridge – the structure linking P.E.I. to the mainland. Run organizers that year challenged participants to take on the bridge. Thousands of people took part in the run that was 13 km long. “That was something else,” said Chisholm.

In the early years of the run, the Guysborough Lions Club organized the local event. Chisholm told The Journal that runners would follow a route out towards Roachvale, going up and down hills, without much thought about the effort – although many would feel the run the following day.

At that time, there were many donations, but most were in the range of a few dollars. That too has changed over the years. These days it’s more common to get a donation of $50 rather than $5. Chisholm said she couldn’t put a number on how much money she has raised over the years for the Terry Fox Foundation, but it has been in the thousands. And in the past few years, she’s been in the top 25 fundraisers for the run in the province of Nova Scotia.

Three years ago, Chisholm got an unexpected phone call from Britt Andersen, executive director of The Terry Fox Foundation, calling to thank her for her contributions to the cause. “I thought that was pretty darn special; that was pretty impressive,” she recalled.

Some of Chisholm’s sponsors have given her donations every year. It has gotten to the point that if they don’t get a call from her by mid-September asking for a donation, they call her. “Some people would say to me I’ve been thinking about you because it is Terry Fox time.”

This year, for the 40th anniversary of the Marathon of Hope, Chisholm was planning to do the run in British Columbia, near Fox’s home community in Port Coquitlam. She has a son living in the area which made the plan that much better – until COVID-19 threw a wrench in it.

This year, due to the pandemic, the Terry Fox Foundation is hosting a virtual event, asking supporters of the annual Terry Fox Run, “to choose how to celebrate your Terry Fox effort – walk, run, dance, hike – on a favourite route and with your favourite people. Most importantly, we need you to honour the day by fundraising for cancer research.”

Chisholm will take on the challenge, walking 10 km from her home in Havendale to the village of Guysborough. She’ll be out for Terry Fox, rain or shine on Sunday, September 20 because, compared to the weather Fox encountered, a little rain won’t hurt.