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Girl Sued Over Torch

May 9, 1985

PACIFICA, Calif. (AP) _ A 7-year-old girl who kept an Olympic torch after her one-kilometer run in the relay to the 1984 Los Angeles games is being sued for $50,000 by a boys club that wants the torch back.

The 1,068-member South San Francisco Boys Club filed the civil suit in San Mateo Superior Court against Tonya Elkins, asking for the return of the $3,000 torch and $50,000 in damages.

″The family was never told that it didn’t belong to her. As far as I know, every runner got to keep a torch,″ said Beverly Branson, the child’s grandfather. ″The whole thing has been mishandled by the club from the start. Tonya doesn’t want to give it up; she’s very proud of it.″

Branson said Tonya, who joined the Pacifica and South City Boys and Girls Club so she could take part in one of its summer programs, was picked to carry the torch through a club drawing.

Norman Martin, executive director of the club, says the girl’s mother, Deborah Whitsett, was told at least twice before the race that the torch was the club’s property.

″The idea was that Tonya would have possession long enough to show it to her classmates at school in September before returning it,″ he said.

Martin said Ms. Whitsett refused to return the torch when he called her in late September. In November, the club’s attorney wrote a letter requesting the torch’s return.

″All we want is to be able to display it, with her name, so all the kids who visit the club can see it,″ Martin said.

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