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Shelburne teacher Aynsley Whitehouse to carry Pan Am Flame

June 4, 2015   ·   0 Comments

On May 30th, the Pan Am Flame began its 41-day journey.
Col. Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to walk in space, and Rosie MacLennan, world champion and Olympic and Pan Am trampoline gold medallist, helped kick off Day 1 of the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am Games Torch Relay, presented by President’s Choice® and OLG.
The Flame is set to arrive in Shelburne on Day 14 of its journey (Friday, June 12th), where three local residents, including Aynsley Whitehouse, a teacher and mother of two, will take part in this historic journey.
Whitehouse’s approval to be a Pan Am Games torch bearer began last summer, when she completed an online application to become a volunteer.
From there, a video interview was conducted. Whitehouse also completed a series of written questions asking why she felt she would make the best candidate.
“I told the committee that I was a teacher and a mother, and that I had a passion for health and fitness,” Whitehouse told the Free Press of her answers.
“I also thought it would be a great opportunity, and that I could use my experience carrying the Flame to educate my students and children,” said Whitehouse, who is currently on maternity leave from her Grade 7/8 class at Glenbrook Elementary School, having given birth to her second daughter, Alicia, just five months ago.
“The Pan Am Games is a stepping stone for athletes to qualify for the next Olympic Games in Brazil,” Whitehouse explained – an event that is very close to her heart, as her father, Alliston resident Brian Garriock, carried the Olympic Torch for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, through in New Tecumseth.
Whitehouse found out that she had been chosen as a volunteer in December, 2014 (she will be working at the Equestrian Park in Caledon during the Pan Am Games), but she did not find out she would also carry the Flame, as a ‘Community Torchbearer’, until March 12.
In preparation for her role, Whitehouse has taken part in several team building exercises leading up to the Games.
On March 14 Whitehouse toured the Pan Am Sports Centre and participated in wheelchair basketball with Bo Hedges; on March 23, she had afternoon tea with the Lieutenant Governor, Elizabeth Dowdeswell; and on March 28 she participated in a scavenger hunt at the Royal Ontario Museum and heard a teamwork speech by Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemmons.
Whitehouse will be carrying the Flame in Shelburne for 200 metres, starting at 280 Main Street West, starting at 12:40 p.m. She is one of 3,000 Community Torch Bearers in total – a torch that will pass through 130 communities in its 41-day journey. She has 10–12 minutes to complete her leg of the race, before the light burns out.
From Shelburne, the Pan Am Flame will travel to Alliston, and then Beeton, in the municipality of New Tecumseth.
On the day of the event Whitehouse’s husband, Steve, and daughters Alicia, and Paige, age 3, will be there to cheer her on, so will her parents Brian and Sheila.
“I’m hoping my students will be there too,” said Whitehouse. “I’ve already told them what I’m doing, and they love it.”
Glenbrook is currently organizing permission forms to allow students to be there for Whitehouse’s big moment.
To practice, Whitehouse has been running with her stroller, holding her arm above her head to build up strength.
“My daughter (Paige) insists,” she said, laughing.
Once her Flame Bearing responsibilities are complete, Whitehouse will turn her attention back to volunteerism. She is one of 23,000 volunteers required to make the Pan Am Games go off without a hitch.
Whitehouse had previously volunteered for the Ontario Summer Games, because, as she says, “sports are important to the well-being of my life”.
Personally, Whitehouse has participated in track, soccer, cross-country, swimming, life-saving and gymnastics, and she says it’s a “family thing”.
On June 12th, Whitehouse will wear an official Pan Am Games Torch Bearer t–shirt, shorts and socks, supplied by the Games. The torch she will be carrying weighs 1.2 kgs and is 65 cm long. She is contemplating whether or not to buy the Flame as a souvenir, to remember this “once in a lifetime experience”, as her father purchased the Torch he carried, following his Olympic run.
The torch relay concludes July 10, 2015, with the dramatic lighting of the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony in downtown Toronto.
To follow the Pan Am Torch Relay, visit TORONTO2015.org/torch-relay, and plan to take part in this historic moment right here at home in Shelburne, cheering for Whitehouse as she carries the flame that unites us all.

By Wendy Gabrek

         

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