Words around Ashley Thompson's bedroom bulletin board captured the spirit of the 16-year-old's potential, as did the quote, written by her in chalk on the slate portion in the middle. It remains a memorial to Ashley, a 16-year-old who died in a car accident on Tuesday, June 10, on Lee Chapel Road.
"The greatest revenge is to accomplish what others say u cannot do," she wrote.
At just 16, Ashley practiced that aura of determination that rubbed off on others she knew.
Other words on the board acted as personal inspirations, including "learn, celebrate, work hard, do your best, be a friend, be creative, set goals and think big." And "think big" she did, remembers her mother, Robin Thompson, proud of the fact that Ashley excelled on the Lake Braddock gymnastics team, as well as in her academics and in the minds of those who knew her.
"It depicts her," Robin Thompson said of the board. "She had spunk, a great sense of humor."
"She had a vivacious personality. She had fun and tried to make everyone else have fun," said Sam Thompson, Ashley's father.
Ashley used that sense of fun during the conditioning exercises all the gymnasts did at the nearby Capitol Gymnastics National Training Center, where Ashley trained. Although it was tough and none of the girls liked it, Ashley shed a new light on it.
"She was able to liven it up so it wasn't so bad," Sam Thompson said.
Gym manager Barry Neff knew of Ashley's vivacious personality.
"She was a very accomplished gymnast," Neff said. "She was definitely the life of the group. All the kids fed off her enthusiasm while she was there."
The gym is considering sponsoring a scholarship in Ashley's name.
One Christmas Eve, Ashley brought home a Chihuahua and named it "Paco." The gymnastics team at Lake Braddock soon adopted it as a mascot. Although she was near the end of only her 10th-grade year, she was already looking toward a career in sports marketing or advertising.
Her funeral took place Saturday, June 14, at St. Bernadette's in Springfield. Ashley's 18-year-old brother, Brian Thompson, delivered the eulogy.
"His eulogy was beautiful," Robin Thompson said.
CIRCUMSTANCES surrounding the accident were hazy, but it was clear that Ashley's inexperience behind the wheel played a part. The Thompson's are now establishing the Ashley Thompson Memorial Fund, with proceeds going toward a Fairfax County Police program to train teen-agers what to do behind the wheel. It will be conducted through Bank of America.
"Our plan is to not let her memory die," said Robin Thompson.
They looked at the statistics of young drivers and wanted to make a difference.
"We have to do something to reverse the trend," Sam Thompson said.
At Capitol Gymnastics, people are collecting for that fund as well.
In the days following Ashley's accident, students gathered at her roadside memorial, many with tears in their eyes. The police even blocked traffic one evening, because of the number of people paying their respects. Letters also arrived at the Thompsons’ house, letting the family know how Ashley affected the lives of others.
"We're just now realizing how many people she knew," Robin Thompson said.
Lake Braddock senior Kyle Bergner was one of those who visited the site.
"Everybody at the school is pretty upset that they lost such a good friend," he said.