Three days after the Olympic Flame is extinguished in Vancouver, a new flame will be lit in Ottawa — in the heart of Canada’s national capital — sparking the official start of the 2010 Paralympic Torch Relay on March 3, 2010. To illuminate the extraordinary achievements of Paralympians and celebrate the endless possibilities of the human spirit, approximately 600 torchbearers will pass the flame as they share the message of courage and determination.

The Province of British Columbia has developed a torchbearer program that is inclusive and accessible to all Canadians. You don’t have to be an athlete or have done something that is recognized around the world in order to become a Paralympic Torchbearer. Through the 2010 Paralympic Torch Relay program, Canadians from all walks of life will have the opportunity and honour of being a torchbearer. Note: The contest is closed since January 6, 2010.

First Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Torchbearer, Rick Ball (Photo credit: Joseph Marancca)
First Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Torchbearer
Marathon runner Rick Ball of Orillia, Ontario, was selected by the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games to participate in the Lighting Ceremony for the Paralympic Torch Relay. Ball lives and breathes the International Paralympic Committee motto of Spirit in Motion. He’s a driven athlete, a 44-year-old dedicated father and an inspiration to others.

Ball took up running only three years ago as a single-leg amputee. His first goal was to complete a marathon, which he did in May 2008 in Mississauga. After only eight months of running Ball qualified for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:17, three minutes shy of the qualifying time for an able-bodied runner in his age category. Today, Ball holds three world records for single-leg amputees — his next goal is to compete at the London 2012 Paralympic Summer Games.

“It’s kind of neat because before, when I first started running, people would kind of look at me and say ‘oh look at that poor guy with the one leg’ or ‘look there, good for him, he’s running the race,’” laughs Ball. “Now it’s like ‘oh there’s that guy with the one leg, I have to try and beat him — that’s a guy to beat.’

“Every time I’ve had these goals like world records and qualifying for Boston, it seems like I’m never satisfied. When I finish one then I want something else — it’s almost like an addiction. But I also feel like I’m representing the disabled community. It’s not just me that’s running.”

Between running 70 to 90 kilometres per week, and a full-time job with the Toronto Transit Commission, Ball still makes time to share his story at schools and organizations. His message: find something you’re passionate about, stick to it and never give up. He also reminds listeners to do something nice for someone else.

“I speak at these things because since I’ve started running so many good things have started happening to me,” says Ball. “It’s my way of giving back.”

Anne Bethune, first Coca-Cola Paralympic Torchbearer
First Coca-Cola Paralympic Torchbearer
Anne Bethune, president of Vancouver Adaptive Snow Sports (VASS), has been selected by Coca-Cola as its first Paralympic torchbearer. VASS is a non-profit society offering skiing and snowboarding programs for persons with a disability on the local mountains in Vancouver, BC.

Bethune has been involved with the Disabled Skiers Association for over 20 years and has led the VASS 10-member board and volunteers since 2005. She is called "The Chief of Tirelessness" for her huge and relentless commitment to VASS. Not only does Bethune sit on the provincial technical committee, but she also runs the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing instructor training courses throughout BC.

A devoted mother to three energetic young boys, Bethune finds the time to be involved as a classifier trainee for disabled alpine ski racing with the International Paralympic Committee. In her professional career, she works as an occupational therapist for the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and Grouse Mountain Resorts Ltd.

First RBC Paralympic Torchbearer, Al Etmanski
First RBC Paralympic Torchbearer
Al Etmanski has been selected by RBC as its first torchbearer to participate in the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Torch Relay. Etmanski is an author, advocate and social entrepreneur specializing in innovative solutions to social challenges.

He is president and co-founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN), assisting families across Canada and globally to address the financial and social well-being of a relative with a disability. Etmanski proposed and led the successful campaign to establish the world's first savings plan — Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) — for people with disabilities.

He is a founding member of the J W McConnell Family Foundation’s Social Innovation Generation (SIG) collaboration dedicated to scaling-up solutions to deeply rooted social problems and exploring new methods of financing the social sector.

In addition, Etmanski was one of the first two Canadians accepted into the Ashoka prestigious global fellowship of social entrepreneurs. He has been a faculty member of the John McKnight Asset Based Community Development Institute since 1995. He has received the Queen’s Jubilee medal; Simon Fraser University’s Distinguished Leadership Award; the Civic Merit award from the City of Vancouver and the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal.

He is the author of two best selling books: A Good Life - For You and Your Relative with a Disability and Safe and Secure.

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