Chris Arena

Student Chris Arena is the 2009 winner of the Terry Fox Gold Medal.

Balding for Dollars activist wins Fox medal

September 24, 2009

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A Surrey SFU student devoted to raising money for sick kids while battling his own rare and incurable blood disease has won the university’s annual Terry Fox Gold Medal award.

Chris Arena, who has confounded doctors and survived numerous near-fatal infections since being diagnosed with Castleman’s disease as a child, will receive the award Oct. 1 before SFU’s annual Terry Fox walk/run charity event.

SFU gives the award to university community members who demonstrate the qualities of courage in adversity and dedication to society, as exemplified by Terry Fox and his Marathon of Hope.

Arena has had seven surgeries, survived six bouts of pneumonia and been hospitalized countless times with symptoms similar to lymphoma and leukemia, spending much of his childhood in B.C. Children’s Hospital with young, often terminal, cancer patients.

The experience has left the third-year biology major humble and grateful, "with a strong sense of commitment to give back," he says.

So two years ago Arena decided to "pay it forward" and become deeply involved in the university’s Balding For Dollars campaign. Now in its fifth year, the event has raised almost $40,000 to support kids with cancer and blood disorders at Children’s Hospital.

Arena’s condition has stabilized to the point he can now live a "normal, mostly healthy life," he says. He’s even managed to earn a third-degree black belt in taekwondo recently, again confounding doctors who said he could never compete athletically.

"My condition is life-long," he says, but "I have always approached the challenge of my illness with courage through adversity, determination, good humour and a smile."


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Joe Arena

As Chris' father Im so proud .I have leaned much from him. I believe Terry fox and his family will be proud as well. Im eager to see how his future unfolds. I think giving back will be a big part of his life. He didnt mention that his current treatments involve the need for many blood donations. My message to you is get the word out ,please donate blood. It gives people like Chris a chance to do good things. Thanks Joe

Kyle Sue


I was wowed by your commitment when we organized BFD. I thought you were a great person with a big heart, and had no idea you were battling such an illness. Congratulations to you for receiving this award! You deserve it! And I hope you keep proving the doctors wrong! It's people like you who inspire the ill to never give up hope.

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