Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nassau Teenager Will Carry Olympic Torch

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nassau Teenager Will Carry Olympic Torch

Article excerpt

Byline: Allison Schaefers, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

Steven Ross says he's simply a Fernandina Beach High School ninth-grader, but after overcoming a rare muscular disorder that temporarily left him a quadriplegic, he's earned a special honor.

Steven, 14, was recently selected to represent Nassau County in the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Torch Relay. He's one of 70 Northeast Florida residents who will carry the torch as it travels through 46 states before arriving in Salt Lake City on Feb. 8.

The Torch Relay begins Dec. 4 in Atlanta, host city of the 1996 Olympic Games. More than 11,500 people will carry the torch for approximately 13,500 miles.

To carry the torch marks a great comeback for Steven. There was a time when he wondered if he'd ever walk again.

He was paralyzed from August to Halloween of last year while fighting juvenile dermatomyositis with aggressive and painful physical and drug therapies.

Dermatomyositis is an autoimmune disease that attacks the body's muscles, shutting down the muscles closest to the trunk of the body and making walking difficult. Steven was unable to walk and went through a period of time when he was able to move only his head, hands and feet.

Now, he's walking and joining with athletes, actors, philanthropists and other inspirational people from across the U.S. to ensure the Olympic flame reaches its destination.

"The fact that he is able to carry a torch for the Olympics is a testimony to his bravery in overcoming the rare affliction," said Dee Ann Barton, Steven's mother.

Barton said she is proud of her teenage son because he has shown he has courage and resolve. He's been an inspiration to others who are challenged, she said.

"My son, Steven, is a champion," she said. "Everyone who knows him, especially those who watch as he continues to overcome an unbelievably difficult challenge, will tell you the same thing."

Barton said witnessing Steven experience the worst symptoms of the disease, such as a severe rash and not being able to walk, have taught her to look at life differently.

"Now when I wake up, I say, 'I can walk, so this is a good day,' " she said. …

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