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