Tom Kozlowicz is going to the United Kingdom this summer. He doesn’t know exactly when, or how long he’ll be there. All he knows is that for 300 yards he will be one of only 8,000 people from around the world to carry the Olympic torch.
“I have never felt more humbled in my life,” says Kozlowicz. “I threw the first pitch at a White Sox game before. I’ve had a lot of successes in my life, but nothing as stunning as carrying the torch.”
Kozlowicz, manager of the , was nominated by his boss, Anita Patel. The International Hotel Group, which owns Holiday Inn Express, is a housing sponsor of the 2012 London Olympics and was offered 71 of the 8,000 torchbearer positions for the Olympic Torch Relay.
Kozlowicz’s nomination included several humanitarian efforts.
Shortly after graduating college, Kozlowicz joined the VISTA corps program where he taught on an Indian Reservation in Utah. He has been active in Big Brothers/ Big Sisters for more than ten years and currently serves as the president elect of the local organization’s resource council. He also facilitates an addictions class at Provena, which he wrote eight years ago; serves as the treasurer of ; and is active in the .
“Your rent for living on the earth is service to your community,” says Kozlowicz.
Around Thanksgiving, Kozlowicz found out he was on the short list; he had survived the first round of cuts. Next, his application was reviewed by the Olympic Committee.
In December he received word that he had been conditionally confirmed, meaning he still needed to undergo a background check and that a spot had not been officially allocated for him.
Finally, on Feb. 13, Kozlowicz was notified that he had a guaranteed spot as a 2012 Olympic torchbearer. While the other details such as where and when he will run remain unclear, Kozlowicz is more concerned with how he will represent the United States, and his home of Yorkville, during his 300-yard dash.
Of the 71 runners selected from the IHG nominees, only 18 are from the United States. Kozlowicz is the only one from Illinois.
“I will represent my home town, pride and patriotism,” he says. “The Olympics mean something. Even if we’re fighting in a war, we all become one and share in peace and prosperity.”
The torch will be run through more than 1,000 cities, towns and villages across the UK by people from all over the world from May 19 to July 27.
When Kowzlowicz returns home he’ll have a tremendous memory of his place in that historic moment and he wants his family and friends to remember how he was afforded an opportunity so rare.
“I didn’t get here because of great wealth or having a high position," he said. "It’s because I gave back to the community."