The Olympic flame may have been doused in Vancouver, but, for one local elementary school teacher, it continues to burn.
Daren White, one of the lucky Canadians who was selected to participate in the cross-country torch relay leading up to the Games, visited Northport Elementary School Feb. 25 to share his experience and show students the torch he carried.
"It's been the best experience of my life," said White, who teaches physical education at Spring Street Academy in Amherst.
White told the students about his torch-carrying adventure, which included a surprise coincidence that also saw his sister get to carry the torch, and a chance meeting with a famous fellow torch bearer, NHL star and gold medal game hero Sidney Crosby.
Students at the small elementary school lit up with his stories, all waving their own homemade cardboard torches, and shouting with excitement at the chance to hold White's torch.
Even though the students had never met White, it was as if they were lifelong friends, united by the Olympic experience. He said he has experienced this with everyone he has met and talked to about it, and compared it to the J.R.R. Tolkien story, The Lord of the Rings.
"It was golden, in the way the Lord of the Rings attracted all the badness to the ring, this torch brought goodness," he said. "I've seen teenagers and 19-21-year-old kids in Halifax, their hats turned sideways, stop their car and come over, and I thought they were going to steal it. They just wanted to shake my hand, hold the torch and get back in their car."
He also spoke of a local Grade Primary student who told her mother she was going to win the gold medal in bobsleigh when she grows up.
"They know what's going on... the patriotism... people crying every night, watching TV," he said. "I'm glad just to have been a part of it."
White was so glad, in fact, that he sat down and had a tattoo etched on his left shoulder of the torch, along with a Canadian flag and the Olympic rings.
The Northport students were definitely feeling the magic on Thursday. Just like White had Crosby autograph his torch, the children asked White to autograph their torches, and shouted their thanks as they boarded their school buses at the end of the day.
Grade 2 student Shannon O'Brien was among the excited youngsters who said she had been enjoying the Olympics.
"It's good, but I hardly get to watch it because my dad keeps stealing the TV whenever I try to watch it," she explained.
Jackson Comeau enjoyed White's presentation.
"I liked when he signed our torches," he said.
White was a youngster himself in 1976 when Canada hosted its first Olympic Games in Montreal, and was teaching physical education at the Northport school when the Calgary games took place in 1988. In fact, he now teaches students at Spring Street whose father was one of his students at Northport, and remembers them carrying their own homemade torches around the gym in 1988.
But White said nothing compares to what he has seen this time around.
"I wish as a kid I had that pride in Canada," he said. "Every school is doing this. Springhill had a big parade, I've been here and to all the Amherst schools... the Internet has hooked people up, the media has done a great job, and it's been the best thing that's ever happened."