Schools benefited from 2002 Games
February 8, 2012
Park City Learning Center Coordinator Tessie Palczynski put off knee surgery so she could carry a torch in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Park City.
"I wasn’t supposed to run, but I put on my knee brace and ran," Palczynski said. "It’s not like you get that opportunity every day."
Palczynski said she received a letter from the Olympic committee that she had been selected to be a part of the torch bearing crew on Main Street. At the time, Palczynski was working at Treasure Mountain Junior High as the school’s special education coordinator.
"They basically asked what size you wore and we got an outfit and you had to buy your torch. It was something like $400," Palczynski said. "My family heard about it and raised the money and bought the torch for me as a surprise so when I went up to buy it, it was already paid for."
Relieved of the expense, Palczynski knew of a student at Park City High School who was in a car accident and confined to a wheelchair. She anonymously bought his torch and was able to pay it forward immediately.
Before the Main Street ceremony, Palczynski said the torchbearers were assigned to meet in a certain location where they got on a bus and road to the event together.
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"We all introduced ourselves and some people told their stories of why they got picked," she said. "One lady was a Para-Olympian and another lady had a flesh-eating disease and then I said ‘Oh I teach here.’ It was really humbling because they all had these amazing stories. To be among people like that was amazing."
After the run down Main Street, Palczynski said she let members of the community pass around her torch and take pictures.
"The people in town and the stories we heard about other torch bearers was my favorite part. It was so much fun," she said. "Being a teacher and being out of school, I chaperoned everything I could."
Park City High School Athletic Director Doug Payne remembers the Olympic workers staying in the Treasure Mountain Junior High School gym during the Winter Games. The school district was closed for about 15 days, according to Payne, who said they rented out the gym to the Olympic committee which used the space for employee housing. The money earned from renting out the space was reinvested into the school district.
"We were able to have a lot of the workers there in the gym and they set up dividers and cots," he said. "It all worked out really well. I remember it was a lot of moving of furniture, but it was quite festive."
Payne said his favorite part about the Olympics was the Main Street festivities, where he said all the action was. He added that the teachers put in a lot of time planning their curriculum around the missed classroom time.
"I don’t think we missed a beat and the teachers factored all that stalling time in," he said. A lot of teachers did a house exchange so they could go somewhere warm and other people could go someplace cold."