When Mandy Faulkner and Alex Schulz organized the first Niagara-on-the-Lake Terry Fox Run, they were just university students.
Faulkner, now a New York State resident, recalls seeing an advertisement placed by the Terry Fox Foundation, looking for volunteers to organize a run in town.
They answered the ad, and on Sept. 15, 1991, the first town run was held.
Both Niagara District Secondary graduates, then attending Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, they felt NOTL should have its own community run, says Faulkner.
She and Schulz mapped out a route that would be suitable for walkers, bikers and runners, she says, and met with the town council and works department for approval of the route, the use of Simcoe Park as the run headquarters, and Queen Street for the official run start. The route has remained very similar, she says, although it uses more of the Niagara Parkway Recreational Trail for safety.
“Of course, the NOTL community was very supportive. We required route marshals, water station marshals, food sponsors, and registration teams. We recruited for volunteers in all the local papers, and of course recruited all of our family members. Pledge sheets were placed in all local businesses around town,” she says, “since electronic forms were not yet a thing.
“Alex and I both attended a run organizers conference in Toronto, organized by the Terry Fox Foundation, and had the honour of meeting Terry Fox’s mom, Betty Fox.”
That was very powerful for both of them, says Faulkner. “We took away many organizing tips, and brought them to future NOTL runs.”
Faulkner and Schulz organized the run until 1995, when out-of-town work commitments made it too hard to continue, and in 1996, were honoured with the Community Involvement Award by the town for their volunteer work.
“Alex and I are both very proud that the run has continued for 30 years, that over $1 million has been raised.”
They are also “so proud of NOTL, and the people who helped raise this incredible amount of money. We are so thankful for the help from our families and friends who supported us each year.”
Faulkner says she is “personally very grateful to Joan for continuing with the run. She does a fabulous job every year, and always includes us, year over year. She is a great person.”
Faulkner, now a conference and events planner, returns to NOTL every year to participate in the run, and hadn’t missed one until last year and this, when she and her husband and son were not able to travel to town due to COVID, border closures, and necessary quarantines. Although crossings are now allowed, it is still not a simple process, with the necessary documentation and testing required, she says.
They live in Clarence Centre, N.Y., just 45 minutes from the Canadian border, and have many Canadians in their area who know the Terry Fox story. Her son has done many school projects about the Canadian hero, also helping to share the story Canadians know so well.
Although the Faulkners will not be here for the 30th anniversary of the first NOTL run, they do have this year’s Terry Fox T-shirts, and will wear them as they walk around their community with pride.