Special torch coming

Posted: Thursday, March 01, 2001

The Flame of Hope will burn brightly as the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg Team delivers the flame to two area schools Friday. The torch run is the largest grass-roots fund-raiser for the Special Olympics.

The flame was lit Feb. 17 in Athens, Greece, and was then flown to Anchorage.

According to a Special Olympics press release, the Flame of Hope, symbolic of spirit, knowledge, life, power and majesty, also will travel to various Alaska cities before it is used to light the cauldron at the 2001 Special Olympic World Games at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Egan Center in Anchorage.

The final leg team, comprised of 79 officers and 10 athletes from around the world, will begin the run at the Soldotna Police Department. The group will run the torch to Redoubt Elementary School gym, where more than 400 students will gather for the event at 12:45 p.m., said Sharon Hale, an organizer of the event.

Local athletes, Soldotna Vice Mayor Jim Stogsdill, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Donna Peterson and Central Peninsula Special Olympics area director Katherine Wilusz will speak at the event.

From Redoubt, the torch will go to Mountain View Elementary School in Kenai for a 2 p.m. assembly.

Hale said before the event, teachers will have spent the week at Redoubt teaching units on Special Olympics and other related topics so the kids will appreciate what the event is about. Hale also put donation cans in each classroom to collect money for the organization. The money will be presented to the team at the assembly.

"I am just really excited," Hale said. "The fact that they are coming to our school is just awesome."

According to Jim Dawson, principal at Mountain View, many classroom teaching units have been developed, and several classes will travel to Anchorage to attend the events held March 4 through 11. Peterson said she also will be in Anchorage for the opening and closing ceremonies.

"I'm pretty excited about being able to be an honored guest at the Special Olympics events," she said.

More than 2,750 athletes and coaches from more than 80 nations are expected to compete in the 2001 World Games in Anchorage. Special Olympics athletes will compete in seven winter sports including Alpine skiing, cross country skiing, figure skating, floor hockey, snowboarding, snowshoeing and speed skating. Alaska will have 54 athletes compete in the games -- the largest number from any of the United States contingencies.

Two central peninsula athletes will compete in the games. Robert Wilusz will participate in the level two snowshoeing, including the 200-, 400- and 800-meter races. Samantha Baker will participate in the novice alpine skiing event.

Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with disabilities. Organization officials say sports give Special Olympians continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills and friendships with their families and other Special Olympics athletes.

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