Milo shows its support for school through Terry Fox Run

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Lions Club President Keith Deitz, at rear, joins Milo Community School students at the start of the Terry Fox Run.

It didn’t take Principal Rachelle Prud’Homme long to gauge the level of community interest at her new school.

In the days leading up to the new year at Milo Community School she’d heard how the entire village is quick to rally around a good cause with the annual Terry Fox Run a case in point. Everyone gets involved, she was told, whether it’s joining the students on the 10-kilometre route to Lake McGregor and back or helping them fill their pledge sheets.

Prud’Homme wasn’t disappointed in the least and says that type of community engagement is key for the school to flourish.

“There are a lot of people in the community that are very passionate and very interested in connecting and volunteering with the school,” she says. “It’s very important that the school is part of the community as much as the community is part of the school.” 

The school is the heart of community, says longtime Terry Fox Run co-ordinator Joanne Monner.

“It’s important for the kids to be aware of the support that the community gives them and it’s also important for the community to be aware of what happens at the school,” she says.

“That’s why we’re called ‘Milo Community School,’ ” pitched in Colleen Bartsch, a former staff member and cancer survivor who was helping re-arrange the permanent Terry Fox Run collage which dominates a school hallway.

Prud’Homme wants to encourage that involvement and is working with Milo’s mayor to create a leadership series, where community members will drop by the school to discuss various leadership topics with the students and share their knowledge and experiences.

The entire student population of 52 took part in Milo’s 27th annual recognition of Terry Fox with staff and community involvement boosting those numbers to 85 and the amount raised for cancer research to more than $11,500.

Monner points out Milo was recognized in the past for raising the most money per capita for the Terry Fox Run, and also earned Alberta honours on a couple of occasions. Local businesses and service clubs have pitched in each year to host the luncheon will follows the run and there are residents who raise thousands of dollars for the event each year.

“And then we had one little girl this year who had a pledge sheet full on both sides, with one name (pledging) 30 cents and one name is 15 cents, so it’s a real range,” she says.

Among those lining up for the run was Keith Deitz. While the Milo Lions Club donates $500 towards the run each year, their president was challenged to walk the route if members doubled that amount.

As he was lining up at the front of the pack, Laura Schlaht of Lomond was just finishing the run. She’s been doing her part for seven or eight years now, this time without her sister-in-law Marilyn Wogsberg.

“She usually runs with me but I am running earlier because I have to go pick her up from the hospital. She’s getting discharged from her second operation (for cancer),” she says, her voice cracking with emotion. “It’s great to see people out. It means people still care, I guess.”

That very first Terry Fox Run was sparked by community support for Brett Wilson, the infant son of teacher Rocky Wilson. The baby was diagnosed with cancer but went on to beat the odds and became a doctor. Other students and staff members weren’t as fortunate in their battles with cancer, however.

Prud’Homme says her students can learn a lot from Terry Fox and the message she hopes they take away from the day is the value of perseverance. She was inspired by a Grade 2 student who declined an offer to hop on a passing golf cart for a breather.

“She said ‘I’m tired and my feet hurt but I am not going in the cart. I am not going to get a ride because Terry Fox wouldn’t,’ ” recalls the principal.

Grade 8 student Maci Deitz says she’s taken part in the Terry Fox Run since she was in kindergarten, and perhaps even longer. Although she enjoys running, like many Milo residents the 13-year-old does it on this occasion with more in mind. She’s had two cousins touched by the ravages of cancer.

“We celebrate Terry Fox because he showed that you can basically do anything by running so far. We’re just doing our part by running a little ways,” says Deitz.

Like many Milo residents, Monner’s eyes glisten while recounting personal stories of loved ones affected by cancer.

“It’s emotional but it needs to continue,” she says of the reminder the Terry Fox Run provides. “The message is that you can do whatever you set your mind to. You can make excuses forever but it really doesn’t hurt to extend yourself. If you think about somebody actually trying to do this – on one leg – it’s a great thing.”

Students across Palliser Regional Schools will be doing their part over the coming weeks to remember Terry Fox and contribute to cancer research.