Fans of the flame

Topher Schuckers may be just 8 years old, but he knows what he can do.
"Run. Run fast!"
It’s a skill he’s discovered in himself just recently, as a Special Olympics athlete.
So fast did young Topher run, in fact, that he garnered a gold medal in the 200-meter dash and a silver
in the 100 at regional qualifying games in Oregon.
Topher, of Haskins, was one of five Special Olympians from Wood County who ran a leg in the 2009 Special
Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run that culminated in a gala welcome ceremony at the Wood Lane School at
noon Wednesday.
"This is his first year in Special Olympics and it’s been the best thing for him," said
Topher’s mom, Tami Schuckers. "He’s just loving it."
The friendly little boy is developing a new self image in front of his family’s eyes, in fact. "He’s
never been into sports until now."
As cameras clicked, balloons swirled and the waiting crowds broke into loud applause for the five
Olympians running behind a cordon of eight police motorcycles, Topher, the youngest by far, directed a
thumbs up and a proud grin to his family in the audience. Pumping his fist to the sound of the sirens
and cheering, he got a taste of the hoopla that will surround him as one of the
athletes participating in the statewide Special Olympics this weekend in Columbus.
At 16, torch runner Amanda Gump of Wayne finds a more complex value in Special Olympics.
"In the past I tried to play with the regular kids my age. I was the one always picked last, or the
one they made fun of for having something wrong with them," Amanda told the Bowling Green audience.

"Since I have been in Special Olympics I have been able to achieve my dream of playing sports. Here
I am treated as an equal. The people within the Special Olympics does not look at your disabilities.
They look at you as a person."
Gump, who was named last year’s Special Olympics Athlete of the Year for the state of Ohio, has garnered
multiple medals in softball, basketball and track.
Over her five years’ involvement "my teammates have helped me and taught me a lot about the person I
want to be. They welcome me in their life, win or lose," she said. "And because of this I have
made many friends. I consider them my other family."
One of those clapping hard for Amanda and Topher was Ohio’s new attorney general, Richard Cordray, who
accepted an invitation to travel up from Columbus to greet athletes and officers on Wednesday’s torch
run into Bowling Green.
"You might wonder why we need to carry a flame around in this heat, or wear an extra shirt," he
commented, as the thermometer hovered at 92. "That’s because of the happy enthusiasm and warmth we
feel being here."
Cordray revealed that his personal ties to Special Olympics are long and strong.
"My father, who’s now 91 years old, spent his entire career working with the developmentally
disabled." During the senior Cordray’s 43 years in the field, "as a kid, my two brothers and I
did a lot of volunteer activities with dad’s work. I think I first participated in Special Olympics in
the 1970s; I was in middle school or high school."
Cordray, in fact, helped carry the torch at the World Special Olympics Games in Atlanta.
Now, as attorney general, he is eager to highlight the tie between law enforcement and the Special
Olympics tradition.
"When I found out the attorney general’s office hadn’t been involved before" it seemed natural
to make it happen now, considering the AG has leadership of law enforcement in the state and law
enforcement officers across Ohio annually take part in the Ohio Law Enforcement Torch Run in the days
leading up to the State Summer Games. Cordray himself will be one of the final runners in the 2009
event.
This year’s torch run started June 15 and concludes Friday, as officers run or bike the torch from seven
different starting points across Ohio to the opening ceremonies of the State Summer Games in the OSU
Stadium while raising funds and public awareness.
Several police officers from Wood County communities as well as county sheriff’s deputies ran torch legs
for the Put-In-Bay/Northwest Ohio to Columbus leg which winded through town past the county library, and
through downtown to Wooster Street enroute to Wood Lane.
Last year, with 1,400 officers helping to move the torch from town to town, a total of $404,000 was
raised.
It means a lot to the over 400 athletes in Wood County alone who "train all year for Special
Olympics," noted Wood Lane’s Mary Sehmann, who is in charge of the county’s program.
Torch runners Topher and Amanda, along with Anne Schooley, Mark Foster and Stephen Scholl "ran
around the track at Bowling Green State University holding a baseball bat to build up strength,"
Sehmann added.