Carrying a Torch: 11 of Truckee’s notables get ready to take the Olympic Torch Sunday
When the Olympic Torch makes its way through the Lake Tahoe region Sunday, Jan. 20, 11 lucky community members will bear the torch on the Truckee leg of its trip. The following is a glimpse at each of the town’s 2002 torchbearers who will bring the symbolic flame one step closer to the Great Salt Lake.
This 20-year-old Truckee native and avid skateboarder is currently studying visual arts at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Before heading off to college, he made headlines for his 3,400-mile odyssey across the United States on a skateboard.
Buschmann was first inspired to make the trip after reading an article about a man who was running around the world and calling for others to join him. Buschmann met up with the runner in San Francisco, where he began his trek at the Golden Gate Bridge.
However, things quickly went sour when “Runningman” felt he was being overshadowed by the young skater. He stranded Buschmann in the middle of the night in Ely, Nev., taking supplies as well as their support vehicle. Unrattled, Buschmann refused to give up and completed the journey on his own.
He said he is honored to carry the torch for his hometown and community. “It’s great to be able to bring the Olympic spirit to Truckee. Light it up, light up the torch.”
Many would have thought that Candace Cable’s career as a competitive athlete would have ended when a tragic automobile accident at age 21 left her with a debilitating spinal cord injury. But today, 27 years and several para-Olympic medals for skiing later, Cable is more determined and active than ever.
After intensive rehabilitation in which she had to “relearn her life skills as a disabled person,” Cable attended California State University, Long Beach, where she majored in Physical Education due to a strong interest in inspiring and motivating young athletes.
From there, she moved in the competitive sports arena, where she tried a hand at competitive swimming and wheelchair racing, in which she won six Boston Marathons. More recently, she completed a 10-week cross country bike ride from Oregon to the Big Apple, as part of Girls on the Move, a special project of Outward Bound.
At 14, he may be the youngest of the Truckee torchbearer crew, but he’s definitely up for the job.
“I would be proud to run with the Olympic torch,” Jacob wrote in his petition for the position. “I have always loved sports and feel that the Olympics bring out not only the best athletes but also the best in sportsmanship. I would like to run with the Torch and represent my high school and all the school athletes that dream of making it to the Olympics.”
Grossman, a straight-A student and athlete, enjoys golf and snowboarding, and plays football for Tahoe Truckee High School. He’s also quite the worldly adventurer, having visited 11 different countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East in the last three years alone.
Bonni Sue Hickson
Even after living in Truckee for 25 years, Bonni Sue Hickson said she “still feels like she is on vacation,” because of the beauty and healing power of the mountains.
Since Hickson was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1978, she has faced numerous physical challenges and at times “hasn’t even been able to get out of bed for more than a year.”
Hickson has refused to let MS slow her down, though. To list just a few of her numerous accomplishments: In 1986, she won a gold and silver medal in skiing at the 25th National Disabled World Cup and also became founder/director of the Northern Nevada/Tahoe Wheelchair Tennis Foundation. This is in addition to being a registered nurse for 27 years, being an active member of the National MS society in Reno, facilitating various support groups and her latest project, co-creating the “Ripple Effect,” a non-profit health/educational healing center for the disabled and their loved ones.
“If people only knew how much it means to me to carry the torch,” Hickson said. “I’m carrying it not only for people with MS, but for everyone. Really the flame is a celebration of life.”
When Robert Horvath bears the torch Sunday, he will have several special people on his mind. One year ago, Horvath witnessed six of his close friends perish in an airplane crash while on a medical mission in Mexico.
Horvath, who moved to Truckee from Granite Bay, Calif., with his family in 1994, has been donating the use of his twin engine airplane and piloting services to Los Medicos Voladores (The Flying Doctors) for medical missions in remote areas of Mexico for several years now.
“Next week, I will carry the torch for my six comrades and the LMV volunteers who give the precious gift of healthcare to our Mexican neighbors,” Horvath said.
Despite this terrible tragedy, Horvath, a founding member of the High Sierra Chapter of LMV, has continued his relief efforts. Over the last several years, Horvath has piloted crews of physicians and other healthcare workers to Mexico on 22 separate occasions.
Jeff and Dana Hunting
One of the few husband and wife teams who will bear the torch on its way to Salt Lake City, this local couple also plans to attend this year’s Olympic games.
“We really wanted to get tickets to watch the ice skating competitions, but couldn’t,” said Jeff, who co-manages the Truckee Radio Shack with his wife. “We’re definitely going to the downhill skiing events, though.”
As winter sports enthusiasts themselves, the couple said they are extremely excited to participate in the carrying of the torch.
Jeff and Dana were nominated for the position by family and friends for their courage and inspiration to others. Just two years ago, Jeff suffered a massive stoke and underwent subsequent emergency brain surgery. With the patience and care provided by Dana, Jeff has exceeded all recovery expectations. Jeff also started a stroke support group in the North Tahoe area.
After years of service, leadership and the enthusiasm that Lt. Ronald Kato brought to the Civil Air Patrol of Truckee, his cadets thought they should give something back to the man who helped them earn the “Distinguished Squadron of the Year” title in Nevada. That special sign of gratitude came in the form of a nomination for Olympic torchbearer.
“I feel very honored to have been nominated for this privilege by the CAP cadets of Truckee,” said Kato, who recently took a job instructing air traffic controllers for the FAA at the University of Oklahoma.
Before moving to Truckee in 1987, this retired air traffic controller served two tours in Vietnam as a Marine C-130 navigator. As noted in his letter of nomination for torchbearer, Kato has used his experiences and the CAP to inspire over 40 teens to reach for their dreams.
Four years ago if you had told Mark Pearson that he would be carrying the torch for the 2002 Olympic games, he and his family might not have been so optimistic. That was when Mark, 31 at the time, was diagnosed with late stage Hodgkin’s disease and the prognosis was grim. Through an extensive course of chemotherapy and a great deal of courage, Mark was able to beat the odds and has been cancer free for several years now.
“This is really a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said the auto mechanic and father of three boys.
Mark hopes that one day he will be watching his eldest son, a soccer player chosen for the Nevada Olympic Development Team, going for the gold.
When Pamela Robbins carries the Olympic torch on Jan. 20, it will be for her son, Bryan Richmond, whose life was cut tragically short last February when he was killed in an avalanche behind Squaw Valley USA. Bryan, only 17 at the time, was a nationally ranked alpine skier aspiring to make the U.S. Ski Team and compete in the 2006 Olympics Winter games.
“I would like to carry the torch for my son, whose spirit will be with us all,” wrote Robbins in her submission for torchbearer.
Brendan Allan, another Truckee teenager who lost his life on the slopes that day, will also be remembered.
Robbins said she now skis every day because it brings her peace.
Tammie Thompson believes that while ordinary people often face incredible adversity in their lives, it is those very times that call on you to rise to the occasion and often make you a better person.
“We’ve really seen that a lot in the past year, especially with Sept. 11,” Thompson said. “I believe that the Olympics symbolizes that ability to overcome adversity and become stronger as a person.”
For Thompson, her defining moment came four years ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, her youngest child was only 15 months old.
Today, a healthy Thompson runs her own marketing company and maintains http://www.kidznsnow.com, an informational Web site for families about the Truckee/Tahoe area.