Olympic hero inspired local students

Other Staff

The Olympic weeks were filled with excitement, glory and patriotism as athletes journeyed from all ends of the earth to perform and compete. Along with the intense focus and hard training, the Olympic games bring people together to share their amazing life stories.

One of these inspiring stories was told by a Buchanan junior, Mary Wessels, who had the opportunity to run the torch in the 2002 Olympic games in honor of her friend Andrew Gutierrez who died of cancer.

A junior at Fresno Christian, Tricia Hill, has known Wessels ever since they attended Peoples Church together in third grade.

“Mary and I have known each other for a long time and we’ve stayed close throughout the years,” said Hill.

Wessels met Gutierrez while volunteering at Valley Children’s Hospital last July.

“Andy was more than a patient, he was an inspiration to all that met him,” said Wessels. “He taught me what it means to truly live.”

Wessels submitted her story of Gutierrez’s life to the Coca-Cola Company and was chosen to be an Olympic torchbearer in the 2002 games in memory of her fallen friend.

“Andy had a huge effect on Mary’s life and I know that running in memory of him meant a lot to Mary and Andy’s family,” added Hill.

Gutierrez’ will to live has remained a strong image in Wessels’ mind as well.

“Andy’s strength to go on each day despite the circumstances or difficulties showed how strong one person really can be,” Wessels said.

Wessels ran the torch on Jan. 20 with much emotion and excitement.

“Andy did so much for me and I feel that this was the least I could do for him,” Wessels said.

Although the 2002 Olympic games have come to an end, the people, their stories of perseverance and the memories of those who have inspired and strengthened will remain in the hearts of many.