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Community pride swells as Torch enters valley

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    To cheers of a proud and appreciative crowd, Martin McSween jogged through the Passion Play Site to the stage to light the Olympic Community Cauldron.
    This was the climax of the event that had been in the works for a year and a half. The Olympic Torch toured the valley, and Drumhellerites were proud to be a part of it, as was Martin.
    "I was a little overwhelmed coming around the corner. I’ve only seen this area filled for the Passion Play and a few concerts, but to see it for something I am involved in, I was impressed and taken aback,” said Martin.
    “It was amazing to see people I knew, and athletes downtown jumping with flags. I have coached a number of athletes in town, not just Special Olympic Athletes, but generic athletes, that may one day become Olympians.”
    As well as being surrounded by the community of Drumheller, Martin also had his own family who came from throughout the province to cheer on his relay. He took a moment to recognize his mother, who could not be at the ceremony. She has been battling cancer for 19 years.
    Martin had a message for those wanting to make change in their community. He said these traits are “being true to yourself, keeping a good outlook and looking forward always. Using what is behind you for learning, but always looking forward.”
    Martin’s short journey to the stage came after the Torch toured downtown Drumheller, and then out to the Passion Play Site. Jordan Phillips of Delia carried the torch past the World’s largest Dinosaur, and Rav Lal handed the flame off to Martin as he entered the amphitheatre. The route was lined with supporters of the Torch Run, all cheering it along to its final destination.
    Those who were able to secure tickets to the Passion Play Site, took in top notch entertainment from local talent as well as the headliner Corb Lund, and entertainment provided by major sponsors RBC and Coca-Cola. At the event, RBC made a $5,000 commitment to the Badlands Community Facility.
    Mayor Bryce Nimmo sent praise to those that took part in the celebration.
    “A year and a half ago when we were asked to be a hosting community, there was no question in my mind the answer was yes. I knew we had volunteers that could do a wonderful job,” said Mayor Nimmo. “I am so proud of them…and I am so proud of our citizens. Look at you out there, it is just a wonderful day. Aren’t we lucky to have the Torch in Drumheller?"
     Co-chair of the committee to organize last Saturday’s celebrations, John Sparling, was happy with the success of the event, and was especially proud of the recognition it received from VANOC.
    “During the event, the VANOC Master of Ceremonies commented upon the uniqueness and beauty of our venue as well as the phenomenal turnout to this event,” Sparling told Drumheller Town Council at its regular meeting on Monday, January 18. “The MC said this was the most exceptional setting for the Torch Run that they had to date. They sincerely recognized our excellence in planning.”

Olympic Torch Relay gives unexpected lifetime memory

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While the Drumheller community was preparing to welcome the Olympic Torch on Saturday morning, for Brandon Huntley, 18, Saturday started like any other day, business as usual at work at Walmart where he works in shop standards.
    At around 12 o’clock, his duty manager, Thomas Laffin, came to see him and asked him if he wanted to go and run.  “At first I thought he wanted me to do something for work so I said “of course,” and as we were going towards the front of the store, Thomas said ‘you cannot fall and drop the flame!’, ‘what flame?’” I replied.
    “Thomas then told me ‘you’ll be carrying the Olympic Torch’ and my heart just dropped! That can’t be right, I told him, ‘no, that can’t be right, you have to be picked for that!’”
    By then, Brandon could see two girls from the Olympic Torch Relay standing at the entrance waiting for him.  He was whipped up into their van, fitted out with all the gear and told he’d better phone whoever he could as they had to get going. Brandon was lucky enough to be able to get his mother, Nicole, his girlfriend, Samantha Echlin and his sister, Chelsey, to meet him at the suspension bridge in Rosedale to witness this moment.
    When the Olympic Torch relay team stopped at Walmart on their way to the suspension bridge in Rosedale looking for a replacement Torch Bearer as someone had dropped out, they asked Laffin if he could recommend a staff member known for their hard work and who tries to make a difference every day.    
    Laffin immediately thought of Brandon, “he is a hard worker around the store, he is local and he grew up here.”
    “When he realized what we were asking him to do, he got scared and a little hesitant, but we convinced him to go and he went around with the torch…it definitely made his day!” said Laffin.
    “The most exciting part was lighting Amber Brown’s torch,” exclaimed Brandon. “Just seeing her torch light up, I started shaking, thinking, ‘this is actually happening!’ I don’t think I’ll ever have that feeling again!”
    Brandon was born and raised in Munson and left to live in Calgary around the time he was  in Grade 3.
    Three years ago, he had the opportunity to return to live in Drumheller.
    “I thought it would be a nice change of pace to move to Drumheller” he explains “and I have never felt more at home than here!”
    Brandon’s five minutes of fame doesn’t stop there.  The staff at Walmart are organizing a fundraising event on Wednesday, January 20 from noon, where people can make a donation and have their picture taken with Brandon’s torch.
    They also get the chance to have their picture taken with Brandon himself who will be wearing the full Olympic gear he was given on Saturday.
    Any proceeds will be given to the Red Cross to assist them in their rescue operation in Haiti.


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