On opening day at the Springboard Community Pool in Springfield Estates, lifeguard Matt Stasik, 17, had the night before on his mind. Although it was Memorial Day weekend and the pool was celebrating its recent renovations, the night before, Matt went to his prom with a van full of nurses he met at Inova Fairfax.
"It was awesome," said Matt, who had recently finished chemotherapy treatment at the hospital. To celebrate that milestone, the Bishop Ireton High School senior invited the five nurses to his May 23 prom.
"The van showed up at the Sheraton National in Arlington," said Matt. "I got out of the car with my cane in one hand and my top hat in another. I flipped my top hat on, everybody cheered."
Although Saturday was not the optimum swimming pool day, Matt walked around all day with an expression like he had conquered the world — and, in a way, he had. After being diagnosed with lymphoblastic lymphoma in the sixth grade, the doctors cleared him of that two years later before rediagnosing him with lymphoblastic leukemia. He'd been battling that ever since, until doctors cleared him this month.
"I finished chemo on April 8 and was cleared on May 5," Matt said. "When I was first diagnosed, I didn't even know what cancer was. I know all my medicines and what they do to me."
Matt is one of the senior lifeguards at the pool and is looking forward to a summer of twirling his whistle and reminding the children of the rules around Springboard. He lives in the Crestwood neighborhood near Lake Accotink. In the fall, after he graduates from Bishop Ireton in Alexandria, he looks forward to attending Penn State at the Mont Alto, Pa., campus.
"I'm probably going to be a doctor," he said.
Matt's 15-minutes of fame did not end with the end of the prom. The following Tuesday, Matt and all five of the nurses flew up to New York to appear on "Good Morning America."
ON SATURDAY, the pool celebrated 40 years of being a neighborhood institution with a ribbon-cutting for some recent renovations. The renovated club house is accented by a new gazebo, slide and other improvements to make the pool as much a part of the children's lives as it was for the contributing parents.
Matt knows the younger children by name. The pool hadn't been open 30 minutes before one of the children was already hanging out with Matt.
"He's fun," Matt said. "He's always here on the rainy days when I don't want to go up on the chair."
For years, the Springboard pool was Katie Tornell's life during the summer. Katie, a Lee High School junior who started her second year as lifeguard, has spent every summer at Springboard since she was 4.
"My mom did too," she said from her perch on the lifeguard chair.
Through the years, Katie has looked up to the guards. Now, with the roles reversed, she sees children going through the same thing with her.
"It was a very significant part of my summers," Katie said. "I try to learn all the kids’ names, when they see you they wave. It's really fun. I could get a job other places and get paid more, but I love working here."
A member since 1969, Barbara Fraker was the senior member on opening day. She has a son in his mid-30s who grew up at the pool as well.
"He was a baby when we started," she said.
Years later, Fraker's husband had a mild heart attack at the pool.
Dennis Zimmerman was involved with the renovations over winter. With no homeowners association in the community, the pool is open to anyone who wishes to join. People come from all over the area. Zimmerman's children grew up there as well.
"I saw my son swim across this pool at age 2," he said. "He's now the assistant manager."