CHEK Upside: Meet the 9-year-old Esquimalt boy who wants to be Terry Fox

CHEK Upside: Meet the 9-year-old Esquimalt boy who wants to be Terry Fox
WatchHe's read all the books, collected memorabilia and even wrote sheet music for an original song dedicated to Terry Fox. But Zempei Mcleish doesn't just idolize Fox, he wants to carry on the Canadian Icon's legacy by running and raising funds for cancer research.

There are Terry Fox fans, and then there’s Zempei Mcleish. A quick tour of the 9-year-old’s bedroom and you’ll see posters and memorabilia of the Canadian legend.

“He is so strong and he doesn’t give up,” said Mcleish, who first learned about Terry Fox in Grade 1.

“Instantly, he was pretty excited about learning about this cool Canadian,” said Aaron Mcleish, Zempei’s father.

He’s read several books and has made two of his own books filled with drawings and mementos all related to his idol. He’s collected Terry Fox postcards, buttons and a commemorative loonie. At six years old, Zempei even wrote sheet music for an original song dedicated to Terry which he plays on his piano.

And when he goes outside to play with his younger brother, it’s not hide-and-seek or tag, it’s pretending to be Terry — emulating the famous Marathon of Hope.

“It’s because my hero is Terry and I wanna do stuff like Terry,” said Zempei.

“He’s a funny little boy. What can I say, that’s Zempei,” said Aaron Mcleish.

Zempei and his brother Kohei even incorporated specific details of the Marathon of Hope to their play sessions.

“The wagon was the van,” said 7-year-old Kohei, as he drags a wagon behind Zempei who attempts to run like Terry.

The wagon symbolizes the iconic Marathon of Hope van which followed Terry throughout his epic journey. Inside the wagon rests a jar full of water, another element to the Terry Fox narrative.

“That jar was, like, when Terry Fox started he got a jar and put some ocean water in it,” said Kohei.

Beyond the fun and games, Zempei’s favourite way of honouring his hero is pounding the pavement in the annual Terry Fox Run and following the Canadian icon’s lead in the fight to cure cancer. Zempei will be taking part in this year’s Terry Fox virtual run on Sunday, Sept. 20.

“Right now I raised already 510 dollars this year,” said Zempei.

“He’s grown as a person as a result of this,” added his father Aaron.

The Marathon of Hope took place forty years ago, decades before Zempei was even born, but Terry Fox’s timeless message is one that this super fan holds very close to his heart.

“Anything is possible if you try,” said Zempei.

Tune into CHEK News from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. tonight for the Terry Fox Mini-Telethon, hosted by Veronica Cooper and Kevin Charach as part of The Upside. You watch online on our live newscast page. 

Kevin CharachKevin Charach

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