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Still walking for Terry Fox after the age of 80 in Collingwood


COLLINGWOOD, N.S. – They have 168 years between them and have walked in a total of 78 Terry Fox Runs.

Eighty-five-year-old Grace Smith and 83-year-old Merlin Ford joined the 30 other people who walked the eight kilometres from the River Philip Hall to the Collingwood Fire Department during the 39th annual Terry Fox Run on Sept. 15.

“I didn’t quite make it. I got in the fire truck after about seven kilometres,” Smith, who lives in Collingwood, said. “I haven’t made it the last three years. The old legs aren’t what they used to be.”

Ford managed to walk the whole way despite suffering a stroke a few years ago.

“I had a minor stroke three years ago but I got over that and I walk pretty well every day now,” Ford said.

Smith has participated in the run between River Philip and Collingwood for the past 39 years, and has organized it for the past 38 years.

“My brother, Gordon Simons, had cancer,” Smith said. “He lost his leg to cancer the same year Terry lost his leg.”

The cancer eventually spread and Simons succumbed to cancer in 1987 at the age of 45.

“I lost a sister to cancer as well,” Smith said.

Ford was stationed throughout Canada during the 37 years he spent in the Canadian Airforce as an airplane mechanic.

“I travelled all over the world with the Airforce for 37 years.”

Now living in Amherst, Ford grew up in Collingwood and has participated in Terry Fox runs right across the country.

“I was so proud of what Terry had done for himself and for the country and I thought I’d carry on his legacy, and it’s worked for me so far,” Ford said.

Keeping active helps keep them young.

“I never stop if I can help it,” Smith said. “I just finished picking blueberries and I usually split my own wood and put it in.”

She picks blueberries by hand.

“I went out last night and picked them. I love being outdoors.”

She also doesn’t have a doctor.

“I’ve always been healthy, so I don’t have to go to a doctor.”

Ford used to golf and curl but these days gets most of his exercise by walking.

“Exercise works for everybody, but people need to make a point of going out and doing it,” Ford said. “There are days, believe me, when I don’t feel like it.”

Smith isn’t certain if she’ll participate in the 2020 Terry Fox Run but Ford says he’ll be back.

“As long as I’m able to walk I’ll do it.”

This year’s run from River Philip to Collingwood raised about $2,500 dollars, $1,000 of which came from money raised by Ford.

“A lot of that was from military friends right across the country,” Ford said.

Smith thanks everybody who came out for the run and the people who donated money which goes towards cancer research.

“I thank everybody for their support,” she said.

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