The WhyNot Marathon (May 27-July 24, 1996) celebrated the achievements of people with disabilities and changed forever the way the public perceives them. The lighting of the Eternal Flame of Hope at Metro Square in Toronto was the beginning of a remarkable two-month event that helped bring about this historic change in public attitude. Starting simultaneously from Victoria, BC and St. John’s, Nfld., the first Canadian Marathon for the Paralympics began on May 29 and covered more than 11,000 kilometres and 700 communities.
Hundreds of thousands of Canadians participated as marathoners, torch bearers, sponsors, fundraisers, volunteers and enthusiastic supporters. In all, there were over 8,000 torch carriers, 150,000 runners, 300 Rotary Clubs, 12,000 Rotarians, 7,500 Royal LePage agents and 200 Paralympic athletes participating.
The Marathon was organized by the CFPDP along with Rotary Clubs in their own communities and Royal LePage employees and associates across Canada. A volunteer crew of 52 carried out the logistics, with one team working in the east, the other in the west. A spectacular hand-crafted House of Hope accompanied the WhyNot Marathon on its trek across Canada.
WhyNot Marathon Day was proclaimed in towns and cities from coast to coast. Thousands of people, disabled and able, young and old, lined the roads waving Canadian flags and wheeled, ran, jogged, or walked, bearing the torch proudly. In August of 1996, that torch was presented to members of Canada’s Paralympic Team in Atlanta.