On days when the morning news brings us yet another story of intentionally set fires, schools under fire and children traumatized if not killed, and the brutality of some police officers–the headlines go on and on–we need to work hard to recognize the millions of good people out in our world.
I was just reviewing my collection of photos from the launch of my last book. Do you know every person in those photos comes under that heading? A large collection of good people were in London that night to celebrate my book about an extraordinarily good man–Ron Calhoun.
Oh, I wasn’t the star attraction that night but the subject of my book was. In the photo above Ron Calhoun (86 that very day) welcomed John Davidson whom he met when John asked for his help with Jesse’s Journey. The two remained friends ever after. Here John is arriving to do his job as emcee. I was ecstatic that he accepted my invitation to do that!
I wrote about 5 amazing people who undertook walks/runs across Ontario or Canada and the towering figure of the humble, humorous man who quietly made each venture happen.
Here is Ron beside the yet-to-be-tested Terry Fox. I love this image of Ron with his arm around the two men who planned to run across this country, supporting them here and later in every way he could. (Harry Crawshaw’s surprising story is in the book.) Terry Fox’s story is well known; indeed, Terry’s name lives on in countless deeds and ventures every year to raise money to fight cancer.
Ron Calhoun, who passed away in February this year, counted himself very fortunate to have been in the right place when the young Terry Fox presented himself to the Cancer Society with his unheard of idea to run across Canada and raise money to fight cancer. The story is famous. Ron gave Terry a list of things to do–arrange for his transportation to Newfoundland to start the run, get someone to accompany him, get a van donated, book hotels, arrange for food and gas along the way–and then call him back.
Ron expected that would be the end of it but a few weeks later he heard again from this young man. Terry had done everything that Ron asked. On this second phone call Ron also learned that Terry was an amputee. That made for changes to the planning but the Marathon of Hope was soon off and running–literally!
Two more young men who gave their all to try to help others were Steve Fonyo and Ken McColm. Steve’s Journey for Lives was fraught with problems. At one point he disappeared with the vehicle and had an overnight stay with a girlfriend. Ron called the Ontario Provincial Police to him track down! This young man, however, raised over $13,000,000 for the Cancer Society as he made his way across Canada to dip his artificial leg in the Pacific Ocean as Terry had planned to do.
Ron Calhoun also took on top volunteer jobs for Diabetes Canada and that is how he met Ken McColm. A diabetic, McColm had lost his sight because of the malady and that made both his feat at crossing Canada and the diabetes society’s job truly stupendous. Ken would collapse at the side of the road and those in the van behind would pick him up, get him into the van, and fill him full of foods and drinks to increase his blood sugar levels. When his numbers were back on track, Ken would step outside and carry on. Ken’s great contribution was that society changed its collective opinion on the disease itself. He changed the perception of diabetes from kind of a punishment for bad eating habits to a disease that could hit anyone. That made fund-raising much easier in the years to come.
These two young men had their hearts in the right place. They wanted desperately to do some good for others and they both completed their tremendous goals.
Ron Calhoun’s final journeys were with two outstanding heroes. John and Jesse Davidson created Jesse’s Journey, where John pushed his son Jesse across Ontario in a wheelchair to raise money to fight Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Three years later John, in his fifties, walked across this country (Jesse’s Journey: a Father’s Tribute). The story of how John reached his goal of creating a charity to fight Duchenne is epic. Today every September John writes out cheques totalling $1,000,000 to fund scientists’ projects to find a cure for Duchenne.
The contributions of all of these people and the many more volunteers in all the communities across Canada and the world restore my faith in the inherent goodness of people. Just a few months ago I was asked for information about Terry’s time in this city where I live. More volunteers came up with a way to honour him and his visit here in 1980. These types of scenes are repeated all over Canada and the world as ordinary people become extraordinary in what they find they can do. We are all in their debt.
The Man Behind the Marathons: How Ron Calhoun Helped Terry Fox and Other Heroes Make Millions for Charity
Print, Kindle, Kobo available now. Audio book coming soon!