“The whole roof. The whole thing. The wall fell right out. Oh my god. It’s not even our home anymore. It’s not even there. I grew up here. The lights were thrown down. Our mats. Our whole gym is gone… We lost everything,” said Edgewater Gymnastics Assistant Head Coach Anna Rodriguez during a Facebook live two days after Hurricane Michael.
It was the first time Rodriguez and Pam Kitchen, the owner of the academy, had been to the gym after Hurricane Michael.
“It was really heartbreaking because we had been there for almost 13 years. It was our place that we trained our kids, and it’s our family,” said Kitchen,
“When our little, tiny 9-year-olds and 10-year-olds walked in and they said, ‘I wish it was my house. I wish it was my school. I wish it was anything but my gym.’ That’s when you know that this is something that is really just ripping these kids hearts apart,” said Rodriguez.
One month later brought more devastation – when an intruder broke a water line while trying to steal copper.
“The water was left running for days and days, so it re-flooded the gym again. Whatever we did have left in the lobby was totally ruined,” said Kitchen. “It was just disheartening to think that here we were with a destroyed gym and now someone comes in and tries to even steal from us.”
Despite it all, the Edgewater Gymnastics team is staying positive. They’re grateful for the outpouring of support from the gymnastics community, who has donations of money, equipment, uniforms and more from around the nation.
“The gymnastics community throughout the country has been reaching out to us continually,” said Kitchen.
“It almost makes me cry every single time because you see all of these people, and they care. They’re not just out of sight, out of mind. They care about what’s going on and how we’re doing. It makes me really happy,” said Edgewater gymnast Daisy Joy Corbin.
Teams are even offering to share their facilities. On the day this story was shot, they were practicing at Golds Gym in Destin, but they travel hours in other directions to get in practice, as well. Some days the girls work out in Marianna and Dothan.
“It’s really difficult for the families, for the parents. I mean, these parents don’t even have their homes and they’re traveling these distances every day just to get their kids here,” said Kitchen.
“The determination that we all have just to do what we do, drive this far, be with each other, and do the hard stuff that we do, it’s just really encouraging,” said Corbin.
“They don’t have houses. They lost all their clothes, all their toys. For them to get up and travel to gymnastics practice for an hour, hour and a half every day – that is pure heart. That is pure dedication. That is pure resilience,” said Rodriguez.
Those characteristics are the foundation that will bring Edgewater Gymnastics Academy back to life.
“We will rebuild, and we will be the program that we’ve always been – a great place for kids to come together and be a family,” said Kitchen.
“Edgewater is the people. It’s not the gym. When we do reopen and we have Edgewater 2, we’re gonna be able to have that much more heart in our system. It’s gonna be fantastic,” said Rodriguez.
Since Hurricane Michael, the team has won eleven first place team titles, and they don’t plan on stopping there. Edgewater Gymnastics will be hosting its 15th Anniversary Edgewater Classic February 15-17 at Edgewater Resort.
To help with the rebuilding of the academy, you can donate here: https://www.gofundme.com/edgewatergymrebuildfund