Thirty years ago Monday, a young man from Port Coquitlam dipped his artificial leg in the Atlantic Ocean before beginning a cross-country marathon.

Terry Fox started his Marathon of Hope in St. John's, Newfoundland, and ventured west before his dream was crushed in Ontario when he was forced to quit after discovering that the cancer that cost him his leg had spread to his lungs.

His family returned to St. John's Monday to mark the anniversary.

"He was here to fulfill a dream, to set an example, to prove that one person can make a difference," said his mother Betty Fox.

Since Fox's marathon, the Terry Fox Foundation has raised over $500 million for cancer research.

"Every time you see somebody who can call themselves a [cancer] survivor, absolutely that's a testament to what Terry started," foundation supporter Donna White told CTV News.

She and the rest of the foundation staff visited Fox's grave Monday to pay their respects.

"For me, it's very personal," said White. "I am a cancer survivor myself. I was diagnosed with breast cancer eleven years ago."

But Fox's legacy goes beyond fundraising. A school in Port Coquitlam that bears his name has inspired a new generation.

Students say their school's namesake represents perseverance and the belief that anything is possible, which gives them a lot to live up to.

"We have a Canadian hero to represent, so we've got to be more respectful and put 110 per cent effort in everything we do," said student Matt Trimble.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's David Kincaid