Betty Fox was born in Boissevain, Manitoba, on November 15, 1937. She was raised in Melita, Manitoba, and in her teens moved to Winnipeg, where she met her husband Rolland "Rolly" Fox, who was working for the Canadian National Railway. They married in 1956.
Betty and Rolly had four children: sons Fred (born 1957), Terry (1958), and Darrell (1961), and daughter Judith (1965). In 1966 the family moved to British Columbia, making Port Coquitlam their home. In March 1977, Terry was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, and his right leg was amputated above the knee.
Terry expressed to his mother his wish to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. He began the Marathon of Hope on April 12, 1980, which was a run across Canada from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Victoria, British Columbia, to raise money for cancer research. He reached 5,373 kilometres (3,339 mi) over 143 days before finding the cancer had spread to his lungs. This forced him to end his run on September 1, 1980, 2/3 of the way across Canada, just before reaching Thunder Bay, ON. Immediately, support to continue his cause came from across the country and overseas. He died on June 28, 1981.
With so much public attention on his cause and his death, Betty found no time to grieve as her support for her son continued. She took on the development of the Terry Fox Run with the Canadian Cancer Society. In 1988, The Terry Fox Foundation became its own charitable organization. Betty took the lead on many parts of the run and the foundation, ensuring Terry's wishes and goals were reflected in the run's organization. "It is estimated that Betty spoke to more than 400,000 school children alone during her 25 years of touring the country, leaving each and every child with the inspirational story of the Marathon of Hope. The final words of every speech, "Never, ever give up on your dreams," have become her hallmark."
Betty was selected to be one of the Olympic flag-bearers in the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. One month later on March 12, 2010, Betty and her husband Rolly carried the Paralympic Torch into the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Paralympic Games, after a whole segment of those ceremonies were dedicated to their son Terry.
Betty died June 17, 2011, from complications from diabetes and arthritis. She was survived by her husband, three children, and nine grandchildren. Her memorial was held in Port Coquitlam, at the same church where Terry's memorial was held almost 30 years previously to the day. It was attended by dignitaries including former Vancouver 2010 Olympic Committee CEO John Furlong and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark, among others. So many turned out for the funeral that the city opened the civic recreation centre to the public, where the memorial was broadcast live. Her death made headlines across North America.
Fox was survived by husband Rolland, who died of lung cancer on March 9, 2016.