Steve Fonyo, the cancer survivor who crossed Canada to raise money for Cancer research has died at age 56. After his triumphant achievement Fonyo’s life was marred with addiction and a series of criminal convictions. Like Terry Fox, Fonyo lost a leg to bone cancer at age 12. He later embarked on a cross-Canada marathon entitled the “Journey for Lives” to raise funds for cancer research. In doing so, he followed in the footsteps of Terry Fox.
Fonyo began his “Journey for Lives” marathon on March 31, 1984, at age 18, and completed it 425 days later on May 29, 1985, covering 7,924 km and raising $14 million. He was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1985, the youngest person ever given that status at the time.
Less than two years after his historic run, things started to go badly for Fonyo. He participated in a fundraising run across Britain in 1987 that was supposed to raise millions of pounds, of which Fonyo was to receive a small percentage, that instead lost money. Fonyo had put his car up for collateral to finance the trip and ended up with the bank repossessing it. The same year he and his girlfriend broke up and he lost his father to cancer,
After that Fonyo’s name started popping up in the media for a variety of offenses, including five impaired driving charges, fraud and assault. He spent some time in jail and was homeless on more than one occasion.
In February 2015, friends and family reported to news media that Fonyo was in an induced coma in Royal Columbian Hospital after being stabbed by three home invaders Fonyo ended up suffering from a traumatic brain injury, which led to him being prescribed medication to prevent possible seizures.
As a result of the notoriety, his membership in the Order of Canada was revoked in 2009.
A 2010 marriage ended in a few months.
While in the Vancouver area to have repairs made on his prosthetic foot, Fonyo died in a Burnaby hotel room, just after midnight last Friday.
Steve Fonyo Drive in Kingston, Ontario, is named after him, as is Steve Fonyo Beach in Victoria, British Columbia, where he ended his run. Fonyo Road was also named in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
In 2015, Fonyo was the subject of Alan Zweig’s documentary film Hurt which covered Fonyo’s decline into addiction and homelessness