Ever since Ryan and I began running together in March of 2015, he got into the habit of opening our mailbox before we left. Ryan said he does it because “It seems the mailman sometimes makes two stops and we don’t get all the mail.”
He said that because there has been an occasion or two when we have had the mailman stop by the house twice – don’t know why and we have never asked.
Anyway, on June 12 as we were getting ready to leave for our morning run before church, Ryan opened the mailbox. Obviously, no one checked the mail the day before because there were several magazines, advertisement pieces and bills.
Then there was a manilla envelope. The return address was from “Mike Pence Governor of Indiana” and it was addressed to Ryan.
Before I let him open it several thoughts of what it could be for ran through my head. Pence hadn’t been named the running mate of Donald Trump for the presidential election, but I figured it had something to do with Ryan and autism.
Did the governor want him to be a part of some special autistic program? Was there a bill being introduced and they wanted Ryan to be there for the announcement. Was there going to be a race or a weekly run starting in Indiana similar to the one started in Staten Island, New York for autistic kids?
Was it the Sagamore of the Wabash?
Ryan opened the letter and we found that it was none of the above.
Ryan had been nominated from someone and then selected to become a torch bearer for the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay.
I hadn’t heard of such an event. Ryan looked at me and asked, “What’s this mean?” I replied, “It means you’ve been nominated to represent the state of Indiana in celebration of it being 200 years as a state.”
Ryan’s reply, “Whoa!”
The letter stated those nominated had been selected because of their exceptional public service, excellence in professionalism, acts of heroism or volunteer service.
I had him take the letter and the rest of the mail back into the house. Then we began our usual Sunday morning 5k trek.
During the entire run, I could only think about how Ryan got nominated. Who nominated him? Where would the relay take place? When would his part of the relay take place? How far would he run with the torch?
Even after we returned home, showered and went to church that morning I couldn’t stop asking myself the above questions. It distracted me enough I checked out of Pastor Chris’ sermon and daydreamed trying to figure it out.
After lunch, I went on line and I messaged the Indiana Torch Relay website. I had one more question – was he nominated or was that it. Would Ryan be a torch bearer?
They replied almost instantly to me saying Ryan had been selected. There was no other process for him to go through.
I then went on the website and looked up exactly where and when the torch relay would happen in Johnson County. The website showed the route would go through Franklin. At first, I thought how cool would it be for Ryan to get to carry the torch down Jefferson Street and passed where his great-grandma Blanched lived.
A closer look at the route and it appeared that Blanche’s house would not be a part of the route.
Then came the date and time – Sept. 23 sometime between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. the torch would make its journey through Franklin. I instantly thought – what a great weekend. Ryan will carry the torch on Friday afternoon and the next morning he will make his return trip to Columbus and run his second Mill Race Half Marathon – which has been declared an Indiana Bicentennial Project.
The next morning I called the Johnson County representative for the torch relay, Dana Monson, and she explained to me the route and also the activities which would take place at the Johnson County Courthouse to end the county’s part of the relay.
After the conversation with Monson, my mind went into overdrive trying to figure out the logistics of everything for the torch relay and the next day for the Mil Race Half Marathon.
Unlike last year on the day before the Mill Race Half Marathon, we didn’t have to take Andrew and Luke to two different places so they could get to Mount Pleasant’s Student Ministry Center to make Bible Bowl pizzas. Micah also wasn’t running the kids race in Columbus the night before like he did last year.
With this being a once-in-a-time-time opportunity for Ryan, we wanted to make sure he took in every event possible. On June 29 we went downtown to the state capitol building for the announcement of the torch relay along with the presentation of the uniforms the torch bearers would wear.
I looked at the list of all the other torch bearers not only for Johnson County but the rest of the state. It will be quite an honor for Ryan to share this experience with them and know they all have this common bond of being selected as an Indiana Bicentennial Torch Bearer.
August 30 we went back to the government center for a training session.
This is where we learned all about the sophisticated aspects of the torch, which was designed and made by engineering students from Purdue University. The torch weighs approximately four pounds and has a GPS unit for people to track it from an app along with a camera for torch bearers to take videos or still pictures during their leg of the relay. The torch flame also is powered by Indiana-made ethanol fuel.
During the training session, we watched several videos on how the GPS unit would track the torch bearers. The videos from the Purdue students also showed how to take pictures and videos with the torch.
Probably the most important part was a video on how to transition from one torch bearer to the other along with also knowing what to do in case a torch bearer fell or began to lose the torch. The torch has a mechanism built in it where the flame will automatically shut off if it is turned on its side.
Two weeks ago was the Johnson County local organizing committee distributed the uniforms for the torch bearers and also showed where each torch bearer would receive the torch and then pass it to the next one.
Ryan has been given the third leg of the torch relay for Johnson County. He will receive the torch from Kenneth Coons around 4:30 p.m. Chase Smith will be the last torch bearer and will present the torch to the Johnson County Commissioners at the courthouse square around 6 p.m.
Two of the torch bearers have significant connections with us. Brian Webb was a co-worker of my Dad at Lilly’s. Tom Brogan was my high school government teacher and FCA sponsor at Center Grove. He was also a longtime cross country and track coach at Center Grove.
So tomorrow around 4:30 p.m. on State Road 44 in Franklin, Ryan will receive the torch and run a half mile to where he will then hand it off to Payton Dillon.
Tomorrow Ryan runs to represent Johnson County and the great state of Indiana.
Tomorrow Ryan runs for all those with autism and other special needs.
Tomorrow Ryan runs for all of those that have supported him before he began running, for those who started because he started running (thank you, Wendy!) and have continued to do so as we have found something that works for him as his way to communicate to us and the rest of the world.