Athens leg of fund-raiser honors injured OUPD officer
June 4, 2007
By Morgan Moore
Law enforcement officers from around the area will kick off the Athens-to-Columbus leg of the 2007 Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics on Thursday, June 21. The year, the leg will be run in honor of Ohio University Police Officer Nathan Van Oort of Coolville, who was critically injured during last year's Torch Run.
The event, which begins at Ohio University's Peden Stadium at 8:30 a.m., is one of six legs of the run in which law enforcement agencies carry the Flame of Hope to the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics Ohio State Summer Games in Columbus, scheduled for June 22-24. Participants throughout the state will wear arm bands to show support for Van Oort.
How you can help
Individuals who would like to support the 2007 Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, the Athens leg of which honors OUPD Officer Nathan Van Oort, are encouraged to gather at Peden Stadium for the start of the run. Contributions can be made by contacting Steve Noftz or Cathy Hart of the Ohio University Police Department at 740-593-1911 or Rick Crossen of the Athens Police Department at 740-593-6606.
"This honor is awesome, especially knowing the kind of guy Nate is," said Ohio University Police Officer Tim Woodyard, a close friend and co-worker of Van Oort's who was at the scene of the accident. "You really can't find a bad thing to say about Nate because he is just a great guy. Those who know him will agree that he truly lives a life true to his Christian beliefs. He walks the walk."
Van Oort was injured last June when his group was having lunch under a shelter near Logan. Lightning struck the shelter without warning and injured several people, Van Oort most critically. During the past year, he has been slowly battling short-term memory loss and various physical challenges.
"He can walk and do most of the normal daily living things," said his wife, Ginny Van Oort. "He couldn't do anything when he was first hurt. What he lacks right now is his short-term memory. He can't hold on to any new information."
Van Oort has much of his long-term memory intact, remembering most people and events before the accident.
This year's run is "like an anniversary for us of a day that changed our lives," Ginny Van Oort said.
What the couple hopes will be another memorable year lies ahead. On June 25, Van Oort will check into ReMed, a brain trauma center in Philadelphia, for three months of extensive therapy. Plans call for him to then transfer to ReMed's Pittsburgh center, where doctors project he will spend about six additional months in physical, occupational and speech therapy.
Doctors believe this intensive therapy a year after the accident will give Van Oort a better chance to recover, having had a year to heal first.
Only six months before the accident, Van Oort returned from a year of service in Iraq with the 211th Maintenance Unit of the Ohio National Guard based in Newark, Ohio.
The goal of the Law Enforcement Torch Run is to raise awareness and funds for Special Olympics Ohio. The Kroger Co. is the presenting sponsor of Ohio's Torch Run, and legs will begin in Ashtabula, Athens, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Marietta and Toledo.