Peers select Elkridge man to carry Olympic torch in England

The 2012 summer Olympics is still two months away, but Elkridge resident Frank Collins is getting an early dose of the Olympic spirit to share with residents of Gloucester in England.

Collins, 43, was selected as one of the 8,000 torchbearers who will carry the Olympic flame during its 70-day tour across the United Kingdom before it is used to light the cauldron at the opening ceremony in London on July 27. He is scheduled to carry the Olympic flame on Thursday, May 24 for 350 yards as it travels through Gloucester.

"It's a really exciting honor," Collins said in interview before he traveled to England with his wife, three children (ages 10, six and three) and mother-in-law.

It is his family's first trip to the United Kingdom.

"It's something, a memory that will last a lifetime and something we can look back on as a great time," he said.

The torchbearers are "inspirational people" nominated by their peers, according to the official London 2012 website. Collins was nominated by his coworkers at Unistar Nuclear Energy in Baltimore. Unistar is owned by EDF, a global utility company based in France that is the official electricity supplier of the 2012 Olympic games.

EDF is giving 70 of its employees worldwide — narrowed down from 640 applicants — the opportunity to serve as an Olympic torchbearer. Collins, who has worked as a finance manager at Unistar since 2008, is the sole representative of EDF's North American companies to be selected.

"To know that I was nominated by my peers and the fact that they found me worthy enough to handle this experience and represent them is really overwhelming," Collins said. "Their nominations were in the form of essays in which they detailed my character and my personal commitment to the community."

Though it was not required for the nomination process, more than 100 of Collins' colleagues signed a petition to support his selection as a torchbearer.

Cyndi James, a coworker, called Frank "a great humanitarian" in her essay and detailed his volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity, the American Heart Association, the Special Olympics, March of Dimes and the Salvation Army, among others.

"In 2011, Frank co-founded a family 5K run promoting early intervention for children with language disorders." James wrote. "Additionally, Frank serves on the Men's and Security Ministries at his church. He has also taught financial classes to congregation members and participated on the Men of Valor Scholarship team. Frank is truly worthy of this honor!"

Added Kent Miller in his nomination essay: "Frank is one of the most hard working, high quality men I have the pleasure to call my colleague and friend. He is dedicated to his family, his co-workers and his fellow man. When Frank is not working hard at the office he spends his free time with his family, his church and in his community."

Stephanie Jackson also noted in her nomination essay how deserving Collins is of the "very special honor" of serving as a torchbearer.

"I truly cannot think of anyone in our office that doesn't like Frank!" she wrote. "He's a good guy, both professionally and personally. I feel that Frank is an asset in the office and is the perfect representative for our company at an event such as this. We are all proud to know him and are rooting for him!"

Collins said his colleagues know all about his volunteer work because during his four years with Unistar he's asked them for their support on various causes.

Each torchbearer has their own torch; the Olympic flame is what they pass along to one another. Collins said he plans to bring his torch back home to Elkridge.

"It will probably take me two minutes, but I plan on milking it so maybe three minutes," he said of the 350-yard run.

In addition to his carrying of the Olympic flame, Collins and his family were scheduled to participate in other Olympic and EDF celebrations while in England.

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