Ashley Jean O'Rear was chosen by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee to be one of the official torchbearers as the Olympic Flame made its way through Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas, on its way to the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. Ashley died of cancer before she was able to fulfill that incredible honor. This is the story of how and why she was chosen, and how the Flame came to symbolize the inspiration that she gave so many people because of her indomitable spirit and her undaunting courage. Ashley truly did ...

"Light The Fire Within"


In order to be selected as an Olympic Torchbearer, a person first had to be nominated. The nominator had to write a short essay explaining how their nominee had inspired others and was therefore worthy to carry the Olympic Flame. Ashley was nominated by her father Paul O'Rear, because "she has inspired so many people through the magnificent courage with which she has faced her daily struggle with cancer."

Click here to read the essay Paul wrote, nominating Ashley.


On July 11, 2001, the O'Rears received two very special e-mails from Mitt Romney, President and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. One of those e-mails was addressed to Ashley, informing her that she had been chosen to be a torchbearer. The other e-mail was addressed to Paul, informing him that not only had Ashley been chosen to be a torchbearer based upon his nomination essay, but that he had been chosen to carry the torch as well.

Click here to read the e-mail from Mitt Romney to Ashley.

Click here to read the e-mail from Mitt Romney to Paul.


As soon as the names of selected Olympic Torchbearers had been published on the official Salt Lake Organizing Committee's 2002 Olympic Winter Games web site, Paul sent out a press release to hundreds of contacts at local, regional, and national media outlets concerning Ashley's participation in the Torch Relay.

Click here to read the press release, dated October 4, 2001.



On Thursday, October 18, 2001, Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk held a press conference at Dallas City Hall to officially announce the passing of the Olympic Flame through the city of Dallas, Texas, on December 12. Ashley was one of over one hundred torchbearers present for the press conference.

Click here for video, pictures, and audio from the press conference.


On Monday, November 19, 2001, Ashley received a visit from Nikki Stone, a gold medalist at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Her sport: Freestyle Aerial Skiing. Nikki made a special trip to Waxahachie from her home state of Utah just to see Ashley, and to deliver Ashley's 2002 Olympic Torch. Ashley was the very first torchbearer to receive her torch. That same day in ancient Olympia, Greece, the Olympic Flame was ignited by the sun's rays in a traditional ceremony, beginning its long journey to Salt Lake City.

  • Click here to see a picture of Ashley and Nikki with the torch.
  • Click here to see an autographed picture that Nikki gave to Ashley.
  • Click here to see the book that Nikki gave Ashley, and read the inscription that Nikki wrote on the inside cover.
  • Click here to read Neal White's newspaper story about Nikki's visit in the Waxahachie Daily Light.
  • Click here to read an article in the Dallas Morning News about Nikki's visit.


The Salt Lake Organizing Committee had chosen Ashley (nominee) and her Dad Paul (nominator) to carry the torch as an "inspirational pair" on adjoining torch relay segments. After Ashley's death, the Committee asked if Ashley's brother Justin would be interested in carrying the torch in her place. He was very interested, and so he was substituted in Ashley's relay segment as her replacement, to carry the torch in her memory.



    Ashley's Memorial Page