Sunday, December 20, 2009

#2. Torch Run Photo Story

Thanks to the generosity of staff and parents in the Chemong P.S. Community, here is a photo record of my completely unexpected Olympic Torch Run in Bridgenorth ON on December 16th. Special thanks to Don and Johanna Genge, to Chantal Bailey, Chemong's dauntless new V.P., her student photo crew, and to Elaine Flett-Hurst, our Principal, who came with tears in her eyes to pass this opportunity on to me.

(You can click on the pictures to have a larger view pop up.)

Off the van at "location #039" -- Bridgenorth's main roadway at Gore St -- right in front of the Chemong Public School staff and parents!

WONDERFUL to see them, and then especially surprised and touched to suddenly notice one of our dads standing there as well, just released from hospital and still ill with life-threatening health problems, but braving the snow and cold to see the Olympic Flame go by.

Such is the power of the Flame . . .

"Who would've thought, when I woke up this morning,
that I'd be standing here right now, doing THIS!?!"

"What did you say?!?

I have to run to WHERE?!?"

And as the noisy, boisterous RBC and Coca Cola float trucks arrive leading the celebrations, I'm caught by surprise as their cheering volunteers come over and congratulate me as they go by!

...and that good-looking guy behind me comes up and surprises me with a great big warm hug! Hey! All right!

The torch comes into sight, and one of our parents gets right out into the street for a perfect picture -- the RCMP try to move her back, but she's not budging until she gets her perfect shot. And it was worth it!

(photo to be posted when I get a digital copy)

The Lighting of Torch #039

... as #038 officially
passes on the Olympic Flame

... and we celebrate by doing a little jig!

And then I'm off and running with the Torch,
Carrying the Olympic Flame
for Canada

totally unexpected
absolutely ecstatic
very deeply honoured....

but especially thrilled
to be able to share the moment
with 500 young crazily excited, cheering,
impressionable kids,
and all our school staff,
and our families,
and friends.

Even taking a moment to
ponder the Olympic Flame...

...humbling to know what it stands for ...that it has been carried all the way from Greece ....and that the next time I see it, it will be in the hands of someone, being carried into the Opening Ceremonies in Vancouver, on its way to lighting Canada's Olympic Cauldron where it will burn and shine brightly throughout the 2010 Winter Games for all the world to see.

Pure snowy excitement!

At the end of my "run", I light the final torch held by Barrie Shepley,
Simon Whitfield's Olympic Gold Medal Coach,
and the RCMP/security folks and the Keeper of the Olympic Flame
keep a careful watch on everything
while Bridgenorth gives an official Welcome and sings a rousing "Oh Canada".

And finally, back to school, to all the kids and staff and parents who were awaiting a chance to see and touch and hold the Olympic Torch for themselves.

I'm surprised to find that some think I'm not going to let them touch it -- but that's what I got it for!!! I want them to take a look at it up close, and to hold it, and carry it, and know they've held an Olympic Torch in their very own hands, and spark a thought that some day they could find themselves doing something unimaginable like this, too...

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

And so, by a fluke of fate, an extra "Santa Claus spot" in Canada's Winter Olympic Torch Relay dropped completely unexpectedly out of the universe
into Bridgenorth and Chemong PS's lap,
and I will always treasure the honour and extreme excitement
of being able to carry the Olympic Flame in those moments that day.




to everyone who helped to make any of this possible,
each in your every small way,

I truly Thank You.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

#1. Surprise, Surprise!

Who would've thought!!!

One minute I am rushing to finish Canadian scarves and hats for students and staff to wear when we go down to watch the Olympic Torch travel through Bridgenorth that morning, and the next, I've become an Olympic Torch bearer, fully dressed in an official Olympic Torch Relay uniform, and carrying Canada's Olympic Flame in front of all the school and community myself!

Wow! How did THAT happen?!? I didn't even apply!

Since I'm already going to the Olympics and Paralympics in February and March, I'd decided that applying to carry the Torch would be over-kill, and I really wanted to leave that opportunity and honour for other people.

But at 8:45, when the bell rang and my Principal, Elaine Flett-Hurst, walked into my classroom to say the Torch Relay Organizers had come to the school with an extra spot for someone to carry the torch -- she really didn't have to ask if I wanted to take that spot! (-:

But she DID have to kick me out of my classroom, telling me to forget cleaning up, forget trying to find my attendance book hidden somewhere under all the sewing... "Just Go! They said not to take anything with you; an Olympic van is parked out in front of the school; they're WAITING for you, Just GO!!!"

And they were. Two young women were waiting in the front foyer of the school with a complete Torch Runner's outfit, and instructions not to bring ANYTHING with me! They helped me dress in a big hurry, rushed me into their van, and whisked me down to the nearby Volunteer Police Office, where all of the other runners were calmly sitting, chatting, and waiting. It turns out that THEY had known all about their role for the day since last summer! Surprising to me, they weren't all from the Peterborough area: Gravenhurst, Burlington, Caledon, Toronto, Sunderland, and Lindsay, but there was a Trent University Professor who lived nearby, and a HS teacher from Norwood.

After introductions and a review of our instructions (review?!?), everyone started filing outside to get ready for our torch relay through town. The woman from the Torch Relay took out an Olympic Torch and told me that this was my torch, and did I know that I could purchase it if I wanted? As I've been following the Torch Relay across the country, I did already know this -- but I almost choked when she told me that it was $400, I needed to buy it right there and then, and she could only take VISA or a cheque! (Remember everyone stopping me from bringing anything with me??)

But who could ever say No to the opportunity to own the actual Olympic Torch you used in an Olympic Torch Relay? I absolutely HAD to bring it back to the school and share it with all of the kids and staff, and parents, and community, and all of my own family and friends (who hadn't a clue of what I was about to do!) What an opportunity!!! So the kind woman who runs our Volunteer Police Office, Anita Hayes, ended up having to buy it for me until I paid her back. Thank you so much, Anita!

Now all of us were ready, outside in the parking lot, doing a practice of "kissing torches" and deciding what to do when we met each other, a quick jog to warm up, a quick cheer "Dream BIG!", and then into the Olympic Van to be driven to the beginning of our route at the far edge of Bridgenorth, where we sat awaiting the exact moment we were to begin. (This Torch Relay is timed to the exact minute!)

During our short wait, each person was asked to tell us their story ... the woman who had applied through Royal Bank's "Make Canada a Better Place" competition with her story "A Little Kindness goes a long way," telling how she'd once met and helped out a man who'd lost his job and was living out of his car, only to discover he was a really great guy, and to eventually marry him, and both build a very successful life together!

...and the Trent Professor who'd suffered Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and who is now suffering serious side-effects from all of his radiation and chemotherapy ....the young woman who'd applied through the "Get Active" competition, and then completely forgotten all about it until she was notified in August that she'd won a spot! ...the teacher from Norwood who was chosen through the Coke competition ...number 038 who would be bringing the flame to me, a young man from Toronto who works for the World Wildlife Fund, and who was off to South Carolina that afternoon to work with a company developing a plan to help wildlife there. ...and finally, #040, the man to whom I would pass on the torch: Barrie Shepley, Simon Whitfield's life-long double Olympic medal Triathlon coach, who helped him to win the Gold Medal in Sydney and then Silver again in Beijing -- who showed us the coach's Olympic gold medal ring he was awarded in Sydney, and shared stories of Simon's races and the four different Olympics he himself has attended. And that's where I was about to carry the torch -- between a world wildlife environmentalist and an Olympic gold medal coach.

The environment, education, and Olympic sport.

Purely the stuff of Olympic Dreams.


Click HERE to read the rest of the story...