Alaska's Olympic torchbearers come to Juneau

Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Following are Alaska's torchbearers and edited versions of the letters nominating them. The names of the nominators were not released:

Mandy Anderson

Hometown -- Unalaska/Dutch Harbor.

Nomination letter -- When people offer Mandy Anderson a ride, it is not only due to the hilly terrain of Unalaska, inclement weather, or that she has two children in a wagon. It may be because she is on crutches. Mandy lost her leg at age 12 to bone cancer. This triathlete has since raced at Disabled Nationals, coached Special Olympics, is employed as a lifeguard, and was Assistant Director of Challenge Alaska. Cancer-free for more than 15 years, Mandy hopes that when people see her face a challenge, they'll realize that they can do it, too; whatever the obstacle may be.

Jody Burcham

Hometown -- Kodiak.

Nomination letter -- Jody Burcham, mother of two and happily married, has devoted her life to helping others. Prior to marrying and becoming a mother, she worked first as an emergency medical technician for many years and served in the U.S. Coast Guard. While in the USCG, she became the only woman in USCG history to graduate as the honor graduate from the Naval Rescue Swimmer School. After leaving the USCG and while raising two small children, she earned a degree in psychology. She now lives and works in Kodiak, for the USCG and manages eight programs ranging from employee assistance and suicide prevention to trauma and stress management programs. She is genuinely a good person who gives back to her community everyday; she inspires me because she often looks past her own needs to help others.

Ryan Chapman

Hometown -- Fairbanks.

Nomination letter -- I am one of the few teens who loves our country. It has given me so much opportunity and freedom. The land that my ancestors held so sacred as to risk their lives for, is being neglected by the generation that will inherit it. All too often my friends take for granted the many things that we have given to us but I never go a day without standing up proud and saying the Pledge of Allegiance with dignity and heart.

Cathy Choi

Hometown -- Anchorage.

Nomination letter -- Cathy Choi worked to develop and implement the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games Alaska Student Program, providing opportunities for students across Alaska to be involved in the 2001 World Games. Choi devoted her high school career to achieving excellence in areas of academics, community service and school sanctioned/service clubs. She dedicated over a year to the student program while at the same time maintaining her standard of excellence in school, sports, and family life. If selected, I am confident she would represent the 2002 Olympics, Alaska, Special Olympics and young adults well.

Dan Coleman

Hometown -- Eagle River.

Nomination letter -- Dan Coleman believes in making everyone the best they can be through the pursuit of excellence, no matter the ability of the individual. He has worked with more than 5,000 athletes, from Special Olympians all the way to 95-year-old Norman Vaughan, expedition explorer. He started a wrestling and gymnastics program; both are a huge success. He's given seminars on staying Drug Free. Dan personally trained Vaughan for two years and helped him reach his goal of reaching Mount Vaughan on his 90th birthday. Dan would consider it an honor to carry the torch.

Carolyn Lee Crusey

Hometown -- Wasilla (born in Juneau).

Nomination letter -- She has shown the way for hard work, commitment, honesty and integrity in all she does, every day. She demonstrates the true spirit of an Olympian in how she has carried out her life, through adversity and ease, always striving for the highest ideals. She has taught us to take pride in our accomplishments, applaud the hard work of others, uplift our fellow man, and always do and be the best that we can.

Erik Drygas

Hometown -- Fairbanks.

Nomination letter -- In 1996, Drygas broke his neck during practice for the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Division I Hockey team. Erik faced this adversity with an incredible positive outlook. As an active quadriplegic, Eric does not let his handicap get in the way of living his life. He is an inspiration to his family and to our entire community. As a high school hockey coach, a college graduate, an elementary school teacher, a brother and friend, Erik has taught us all the strength of the human heart and the undying power of the human spirit.

Jack Eddy

Hometown -- Petersburg.

Nomination letter -- There is no other person in the world who is more deserving of being an Olympic torchbearer that Mr. Eddy, my teacher and running coach. Mr. Eddy is one of those rare teachers who puts 110 percent into his teaching and students. He is undoubtedly the most respected and well-liked teacher in our school. Though Mr. Eddy has suffered from Parkinson's disease for many years, he maintains a positive attitude toward life. He somehow manages to find the strength to teach and come to practice everyday with a smile, to run with and inspire our team.

Robert Forgit

Hometown -- Anchorage.

Nomination letter -- Robert Forgit has been the local weatherman for several years and has inspired many to wake up in the morning with his enthusiasm and constant hard work presenting Alaska weather to the best of his capabilities. Robert donates a lot of time to raising money for the Children's Miracle Network and the local cancer society with his annual plunge into Resurrection Bay in February. He has also amassed to 10 American Swimming finishes in the Masters Division and turns 40 in August. If not just for that fact alone, I nominate Robert for his spirit, enthusiasm, and as a role model for all Alaskans.

Joanna Goldman

Hometown -- Juneau.

Brief biography -- (Editor's note: Goldman nominated Constance Trollan and because of her letter was also made a torchbearer. Goldman and Trollan will both carry the torch.) Joanna earned her nursing degree at the University of Washington in 1982. She worked at Bartlett Regional Hospital from 1982-1992 in the Obstetrics Department. In 1994 Joanna received a Master of Science in Nursing and a Nurse-Midwife certificate from the University of Illinois in Chicago. She returned to Juneau in 1997 and helped to establish the Juneau Family Birth Center. In 1998, she began working at Wellspring as an Advanced Nurse practitioner and Nurse Midwife. Joanna is a highly qualified and caring practitioner who provides family-centered holistic nurse-midwifery care for the community of Juneau. She is the only practicing nurse midwife in Juneau.

Marietta Hall

Hometown -- Anchorage.

Nomination letter -- I nominated Marietta Hall, who deserves this honor for countless reasons. She inspires and motivates and never gives up on herself and others. Marietta has been the driving force behind bringing the sport of rowing to Alaska through her organizing, coaching, volunteering, and rowing with Kenai Crewsers, and Anchorage Rowing Association. Because of her, hundreds of Alaskans have now experienced rowing and have discovered the athlete in himself or herself. Junior members have benefited by college admittance and scholarship opportunities. Her dedication and service is immeasurable.

Linda Hayes

Hometown -- North Pole.

Nomination letter -- We at Safeway in North Pole, Alaska, (yes, we really do work there) are in awe of Linda's determination and above all her courage. She has cancer and even though she as going to radiation every day she would still somehow have the strength to come to work with a smile that lights up the store. When we think about what she is going through we look to her with the greatest admiration. Her passion for life is inspiring in itself. She deserves to have this honor if not for herself for all of us who look up to her.

Deana Johnson

Hometown -- Anchorage.

Nomination letter -- There are more reasons than I can list as to why Deana Johnson deserves to carry the Olympic Torch. She has been a tireless supporter of dressage (a form of horseback riding) in Alaska. Despite a multitude of health problems, Deana has continued to care about her students and their horses. She's ridden through back problems, heart surgeries and even cancer. The last time I saw her, she was giving a lesson wearing a baseball cap -- it took me a second to realize that the cap covered up her baldness which was a result of her chemotherapy! With everything that has happened to her, I've never heard her once complain! The energy and grace with which she faces her problems is amazing. She showed me that you can never give up, no matter how tough the road may be!

Niall Bo Johnson

Hometown -- Juneau.

Nomination letter -- Niall Bo Johnson is a Special Olympics athlete from Alaska who played an integral role in the Opening Ceremonies of the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games. Niall lit the cauldron with the Special Olympics Flame of Hope. What an exciting year for this special athlete if he also had the chance to carry the flame for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Ethel Lund

Hometown -- Juneau.

Nomination letter -- Raised in a small Alaska community, Ethel returned from nursing school to eventually head one of the largest, award-winning, Native health corporations in the country. She negotiated the first formal agreement between the federal Indian Health Service and a Native health board for tribal consultation and program development. Throughout the region she developed centers for community health aide practitioner (CHAP) training and youth substance abuse treatment in addition to innovative community health programs. She has served in board positions for Alaska Native Sisterhood, Sealaska Regional Corp., and Bartlett Regional Hospital. Ethel inspires all who believe humble beginnings can't be overcome.

Joy Maples

Hometown -- Anchorage.

Nomination letter -- Joy is a fabulous woman, a mother of two, a loving and supportive wife not to mention a widely recognized professional in her field. She is head of PR department for the City of Anchorage. She was nominated to represent her state in the original Eco-Challenge. She is an avid parachuter, runner, bicyclist, etc., and I am proud to call her my sister! This is something I know she has only dreamed about and would be truly honored.

Jody McCarrey

Hometown -- Anchorage.

Nomination letter -- Jody McCarrey and I dated for a quite a while; our relationship began just shortly after my father passed away. My father was my best friend and my biggest supporter in my life. I was devastated when he died. Jody was there for my through it all. No matter what time of day it was, she was there to help me get better and to help me get through my loss. I nominated her because I know only a certain type of person is worthy of carrying the Torch; it has to be somebody who makes a difference in the world. My father was my world and Jody helped me through the hardest of times. She's the most special person I know. If there were more people like Jody in this world, it would be a better place. If there is anyone who deserves this honor, it is Jody McCarrey.

Wendie Marriott

Hometown -- Unalaska/Dutch Harbor

(former Juneau resident).

Nomination letter -- (Editor's note: Marriott nominated Mandy Anderson and both will carry the torch. Marriott is the former director of Juneau's Zach Gordon Youth Center.) When people hear the words "Wendie Marriott," inspiring and amazing comes to mind. A kind individual, Wendie can somehow balance the duties of Parks, Culture and Recreation Director for the City of Unalaska, keep an active social and recreational life, be a member of book and investment clubs, and still somehow travel the world, motivate others, entertain, read and keep a clean house. Always kind, fair, understanding, smart, enthusiastic and respectful, Wendie is a true inspiration to anyone she meets. As her lucky sister, I feel honored when someone accidentally calls me "Wendie." She is truly an exceptional and beautiful person!

Joy McDonald

Hometown -- Fairbanks.

Nomination letter -- Joy has been an active player in the local woman's hockey league since it began in 1978. She currently plays on a team with her four daughters and three of her granddaughters. She is also an independent business owner. She personifies that age means nothing. It's the mindset that counts. She is also active in other sports, but to me, hockey is most impressive.

Michael Miller

Hometown -- Beaverton, Ore.

(former Juneau resident).

Nomination letter -- Michael H. Miller is a special selection by the City of Juneau to carry the Olympic Torch in the relay. Mike was the local Glacier Swim Club coach for many years before he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He also coached the Juneau-Douglas High School boys swimming and diving team to its only state championship in 1985. Mike has fought his own personal battles with the disease but more profoundly advocated for others. He is the founder and president of the Southeast Alaska Cancer and Wellness Foundation, established to provide cancer information and support to those in Southeast facing diagnosis. He has tirelessly advocated for legislation and prevention and has been recognized nationally for his efforts. Mike recently relocated from Juneau to Oregon to be closer to treatment, but he epitomizes the spirit and determination of the Olympics. He has truly made a difference in many people's lives, first as a coach and now as man with a mission to educate the world about cancer, early testing and prevention.

Nick Parker

Hometown -- Anchorage.

Nomination letter -- Nick contracted polio as a child that atrophied a leg and injured his lungs. Nick did not let his disability stop him from becoming a premier mountain climber and guide on Mount McKinley. Nick led over 30 expeditions safely on the mountain. He volunteered, many times, and risked his life to save the lives of several climbers. Nick no longer climbs the high mountains. The polio damage continues to decrease his ability to breath. He teaches mountain rescue and avalanche safety to the Air Force Pararescue team and mountain rescue organizations. He embodies the tenacity and spirit of a true athlete.

Nicholas Pulice

Hometown -- Fairbanks.

Nomination letter -- Nicholas has had many ups and downs in his 17 years. As an infant of 2 weeks he was seriously ill and he was diagnosed with ADHD with learning disabilities before kindergarten. He and his parents were told that he would not stay interested in school and that historically most children with ADHD with learning disabilities drop out of school by the eighth grade. In 1996, Nicholas was hit hard emotionally when his parents divorced.

Nicholas has been able to accomplish several major achievements in his life. His parents and he have united in making sure that he graduates from West Valley High School in 2002 and he is right on target. He earned his eagle rank with palms from the Boy Scouts at the age of 15. He is a National Ski Patroller at Birch Hill Recreation Area on Fort Wainwright, and he has earned his emergency trauma technician card. He loves drag racing and at age of 16, just four days after he got his driver's license, Nicholas drove his dad's dragster down the quarter-mile track at 152 miles per hour in 8.42 seconds. His current goals are to make sure he graduates from high school and then he wants to be employed in the emergency medical field.

Nicholas is a very lovable, caring young man with many loving supporters. He would make an excellent torchbearer.

Kirsten Rasmussen

Hometown -- Anchorage.

Nomination letter -- Kirsten has given me the gift of believing that anything can be accomplished. I had always wanted to learn to fly but never thought I that could be done. She changed all that by not only learning to fly herself but also becoming a flight instructor. I have always prided myself on being in good physical shape and never considered running a marathon until I met her. She has completed on marathon and has challenged me to complete one with her soon here in Alaska. She has taught me that I just need to believe it and it can come true. What an inspiration!

Sabrina Richmond

Hometown -- Juneau.

Nomination letter -- Sabrina Richmond was born on Jan. 14, 1979, two months premature, diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Sabrina underwent 16 major operations in 12 years. She just had her 17th operation, correcting a 65-percent spine curvature. Sabrina's athletic abilities are skiing, track and bowling. Sabrina has been determined to overcome her disabilities and be a competitor. In doing so, she has gained the respect and admiration of her competitors and peers. She's a serious student with a big heart and a great understanding of people, plus a determination to overcome her disabilities and be a competitor. She's earned the honor and will be an excellent representative for Alaska.

Brian Ryan

Hometown -- Anchorage.

Nomination letter -- Brian Ryan is a young man who has accomplished much with his athletic ability. In high school, he played rugby, soccer, and baseball. His soccer team was undefeated and won the state championship in New York in 1990. While in the Army, Brian turned to boxing. He has won several state heavyweight and Toughman titles. In 2001, Brian was second in the World Toughman competition in Bay City, Mich. Brian's interest and ability in sports would make him a good candidate to carry the torch in the 2002 torch relay.

Kimberly Skinner

Hometown -- Juneau.

Nomination letter -- Kimberly is a mother of five, holds down a full time job, teaches yoga and nutrition and recently won a contest (body transformation) that extended to all residents of Canada and the United States. Kimberly is the finest example in all areas of her life and is actively involved in her church. But, most of all, is the person whom I love more than any other.

Linda Sopp

Hometown -- Anchorage.

Nomination letter -- My mom has always been there for me and my sister and brother. As we were growing up and even today, she makes sure we know there is nothing we cannot do. She never lets anything get in the way of accomplishing something. She has taught each of us to either knock the hurdle down or climb over it. She is the backbone of our family. She always puts the needs of other people before her own needs. She helps our neighbors, friends and other family members even when they don't ask for help.

Kari Spencer

Hometown -- Juneau.

Nomination letter -- Kari is a 42-year old mother of three (Laura 18, Joe 5, and Amy 3). As a longtime smoker, she did not want to quit during her first pregnancy and Laura was born two weeks early at a low birth weight. Laura is perfectly healthy today. However, as more information about the dangers of smoking during pregnancy became available, Kari always regretted her decision. So, upon learning of her pregnancy with Joe, Kari immediately quit smoking. The date was July 28, 1995. She also convinced her husband, Dan to quit at the same time. They both did, and neither has smoked since. Amy, now 3, as the latest Spencer to enjoy growing up in a smoke-free environment. Kari is a passionate about her decision and will gladly share her story.

Constance Trollan

Hometown -- Juneau.

Nomination letter -- If the Olympic ideal reflects international cooperation and sportsmanship, Constance Trollan exemplifies these qualities for Juneau. Her presence in our community teaches us about our individual health and responsibility for ourselves, our neighbors, and globally. She is an advanced nurse practitioner, educator and theologian. In Juneau, she served as a public health nurse for 25 years before creating our first holistic health clinic. Connie has worked in Romania with the World Health Organization for 10 years to create nursing programs and textbook, while advocating tirelessly to publicize the crises for the Romanian orphans. As an individual she is an extraordinary role model of health and athletic prowess that truly demonstrates the Olympic ideal.

Ray Vidic

Hometown -- Juneau.

Nomination letter -- Enthusiasm and generosity of spirit define Ray Vidic. When he sees a need in this community, he responds. He saw perfectly good shoes being discarded by a local retailer and single-handedly developed a program to put those shoes on hundreds of needy children's feet. He found funding to increase the depth and range of the program, and did so humbly, quietly and with no fanfare. He serves people living with cancer, walks side by side with them, encourages them, hurts with them and lobbies for them. No fanfare, no glory. He epitomizes the genuine unselfish spirit that is the Olympics.

Jean Vreeman

Hometown -- Anchorage.

Nomination letter -- My mom is the biggest sports fan I know -- she loves all sports. And she is the best mom. She has eight children and she is excellent and caring to each of us. She also works part time teaching childbirth classes at the Alaska Regional Hospital. She is devoted to our church, attends Bible studies and sings in the church choir on occasion with my Dad. She inspires me by the way she lives her life no matter how hard it gets. I want to be just like her when I am older.

Michelle Webb

Hometown -- Anchorage.

Brief biography (supplied by Coca-Cola) -- Michelle Webb is a single mother of two teenagers. She is a motivating force behind young athletes by coaching soccer and volleyball teams. When Michelle's daughter Krystal nominated her to carry the torch, Michelle was thrilled. Michelle hasn't stopped smiling since. She has always been supportive of her children in doing whatever it is they want to do in live. Now, it is their turn to support Michelle.

Norman Vaughan

Hometown -- Anchorage.

Nomination letter -- A 1932 U.S. Olympic Team member (dog sledding), Antarctic explorer, World War II search and rescue commander, unofficial Alaska ambassador, mountain climber, author and leader of the Commemorative Serum Run (a sled dog team relay from Nenana to Nome to commemorate the 1925 diphtheria serum run); Col. Norman Vaughan is a living history book and an American treasure. At age 95, Norman continues to amaze and inspire people of all ages, demonstrating strength and character and an unwavering belief that life is a miracle to be lived to the fullest. Norman has defied the odds time and time again to achieve his dreams. His message to others, "Dream big and dare to fail," says it all.

Chuck Whelan

Hometown -- Anchorage.

Nomination letter -- I am sure that many famous people and local leaders will be selected to carry the Olympic Torch in Alaska. In addition to these people, I would like to nominate my brother Chuck Whelan to carry the Torch. Chuck is a middle school teacher with a particular focus on students with special needs. He spends his "spare" time coaching girl's ice hockey. While he is not famous, he quietly goes about making positive changes in the lives of the people he knows. I think this is a quality worthy of notice and celebration. Not everyone can be a famous leader, but we can all aspire to live our lives as ordinary examples of the values that my brother exhibits on a daily basis.

Shirley Winther

Hometown -- Fairbanks.

Nomination letter -- Shirley is a spirited Alaska enthusiast who loves Alaska. Ask her and she will tell you how she competed in gymnastics through out her high school years. "When I was a little girl, I wanted to be in the Olympics. I guess this is the closest I'll ever get." However, this is not the only time that she has helped others on a larger scale. Shirley recently ran a marathon Memorial Day weekend with her husband to benefit cancer. "I almost cried crossing the finishing line. It was really hard, especially the last miles. But, just knowing there are people out there who can't run ..." gave me the strength.

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