Special Olympics volunteer to carry torch

November 23, 2001

Special Olympics volunteer to carry torch

Editor's Note: This is one in a series of occasional features highlighting Tri-State area residents selected to carry the Olympic Torch on Dec. 20 on a course through Martinsburg, W.Va. More than 20 local residents from Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania have been selected.


Amid perpetual wet, white weather on Kodiak Island, Alaska, the Tolands tried to stay sane.

"One of the things about Kodiak: You had to fill your free time with something or you'd go nuts," Lin Toland said.

The couple's outlet was the Special Olympics, which they joined in Alaska in 1985 after they met on a blind date.

Toland and his wife, Janet, now live with their 10-year-old son, Jimmy, near the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, south of Martinsburg, W.Va.


Toland, 51, retired last year after 31 years with the U.S. Coast Guard. He was picked to carry the Olympic torch for a stretch in Martinsburg on Dec. 20.

Herb Anderson, a supervisor under Toland, nominated him.

"He spent 30 years serving his country, protecting it, defending it and its citizens," Anderson wrote. "He was an inspiration and a mentor to me for half of that time."

Toland was a chief petty officer on Kodiak Island when he and his future wife volunteered with the Special Olympics, an annual sports festival for people with mental retardation.

Before long, the Tolands were coaching bowling.

Toland later heard about "unified sports" in Washington, D.C., and brought it back to Alaska's Special Olympics. In unified sports, athletes with and without disabilities compete on the same teams.

Toland was appointed state director for unified sports in Alaska and started a pilot bowling league.

When the Coast Guard transferred him to New Orleans, he brought unified bowling with him and became state director in Louisiana.

It's appropriate that Chevrolet will sponsor Toland in the torch relay. Toland is a Corvette man. He used to drive one at autocross events when he gave up on his Porsche 944.

Toland competed in stock car and sports car races until the Coast Guard told him to stop in the mid-1970s.

Racing remains a family fancy. Lin, Janet and Jimmy Toland are licensed officials, at different levels, with the Sports Car Club of America.

Jimmy is now the race driver in the family; next year will be his sixth competing in Quarter Midget events at Hagerstown Speedway.

A California native, Lin Toland enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1969 in San Jose. Throughout his career, the Coast Guard moved him to New York, Washington state, Virginia, Alaska, Florida, Louisiana and West Virginia.

Near Antarctica - "3,000 miles from anywhere" - his ship sprung a large hole, but didn't sink, he said.

However, he was on watch in Virginia when a freighter struck a cutter, and the cutter sank where the Potomac River meets the Chesapeake Bay.

He also was on watch on Kodiak Island when a motor vessel caught fire.

Hurricane Andrew nearly hit his base in New Orleans.

And, during another tour on Kodiak Island, the Exxon Valdez tanker spilled millions of gallons of oil into Prince William Sound.

Toland is now a disaster recovery planner in Arlington, Va. He helps business and agencies prepare for the worst, such as computer failures, fires or plane crashes.

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