Sunday, December 9, 2001

Daily Light Editor

     The past few weeks have been difficult for Justin and his family.
     It's not easy losing someone you love -- especially when that person is someone you respected and admired.

     "She was my hero," he said, referring to his sister Ashley O'Rear who passed away Nov. 24 after a four-year battle with brain cancer. "She inspired so many people. She gave them courage and hope. She never let cancer get her down. She never gave up.
     "It's been hard. I miss her a lot," he said, turning his head and looking down at the floor.
     On Tuesday, the Turner Middle School student will have the opportunity to honor his sister by carrying the Olympic torch as it passes through the Metroplex area on the way to the Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.

     Ashley was selected by the U.S. Olympic Committee to be a torchbearer in October for being an inspiration to others. During a special visit Nov. 19, Ashley became the first American to receive the Olympic torch. U.S. Olympic gold medalist Nikki Stone presented the torch less than a week before Ashley passed away.
     "This is a great honor," Justin said. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity. And I know it's really special to be able to carry the torch.
     "But it's special to me because I get to do this for Ashley. I know how much this meant to her. She's my hero and I am carrying it in her honor. I think this is what she would have wanted," he said.
     Justin and Ashley's father Paul

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