Letter to the Editor: ‘Just Add Water’

Letter to the Editor: ‘Just Add Water’

I am writing as a new Team Rep for our neighborhood's summer swim team here in Centreville, the Faircrest Cyclones. You published an article about our first season back in 2016, http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/news/2016/jul/13/faircrest-cyclones-swim-first-season/.

That article highlighted some of what we offer our community: opportunity for youth and unity from diversity. Now entering our third season, we faced a tremendous obstacle: our community's clubhouse was struck by fire April 6. You can see some of the local television coverage here: http://wjla.com/news/local/crews-battle-massive-fire-as-community-clubhouse-goes-up-in-flames-in-centreville. The fire has closed our pool for the entire summer: for what it's worth, the news reports grossly undervalued the damages. No one was hurt, thankfully, and we will rebuild.

Unfortunately, the blaze left the Cyclones with no pool where we can practice this year: a swim team without a pool, but with swimmers, parents, and coaches still fiercely determined to swim, to have fun, and to represent the community this summer. After the fire, we immediately and actively explored options to get practice time elsewhere, making "Just Add Water" our theme for the season. In an area so blessed with pools and so active in competitive swimming, this proved surprisingly challenging.

Registration for the team had opened a month before, and March's steady enrollment stalled with the uncertainty as possibilities were explored and leads followed, coming to naught. Swimmers and their parents make their decisions for summer activities based on logistics, and ours were dependent on the pool and clubhouse, left floating in the air by the fire.

I am elated to say that this story has a happy ending, and even an inspiring one. We reached out to the swim community, and a neighboring swim club responded in early May at the urging of its own summer team, going well out of its way to provide us a home away from home this summer by adding hours, lifeguards, and a firehose-like blast of warm welcome. With just a few days before outdoor pools open, the business details were hammered out. Registration for the team resumed, and with fervor. Overcoming the adversity posed by the fire has created palpable excitement here in Faircrest, matched both by the joy these young swimmers have at being in the water for a third summer and by the confidence that if this can be overcome there will be many more seasons in our future.

I would like to thank publicly all in the swim community who offered sympathy, suggestions, and options, but particularly the Brookfield Swim Club in Chantilly, their swim team the Breakers, and their league, the Northern Virginia Swim League, for pulling this rabbit out of the hat for us. If a pool supporting not just one team but two were not shocking enough, I will also point out that the Cyclones are not even members of the Northern Virginia Swim League. For its part, I would also like to extend our gratitude to our own Herndon Swim League for promptly and efficiently reshuffling a nearly finalized meet schedule, for its empathy, and for providing the Cyclones all possible latitude as our season teetered on the brink.

Of course, like any team, we always salute our sponsors, the local businesses that support us. It would be trite and commercial to name them here, but for standing with us when we could not promote them exactly as planned, they have our profound respect. We are proud to wear their logos on the backs of our tee shirts and fly them on our banner.

I would also like to thank our HOA, the Centreville Farms Community Association, that owns and operates the pool. During a time when it was understandably taxed with safety, insurance, recovery, and reconstruction issues from the fire itself, its board and managers nonetheless stood staunchly behind the team's efforts to carry on its own mission. Finally, I am deeply indebted to the Cyclones families and coaches themselves, for treating the fire as an inconvenience rather than a tragedy, and for rallying with patience, perseverance, and good humor.

The team's plight certainly pales compared to that of those injured and left homeless by the area's more recent fires, but to me the story of overcoming it is an important one. Those organizations named above demonstrate, I believe, the very best qualities of summer swim — teamwork, volunteerism, and community. "Just Add Water" to those and you get the very sunny result of kids swimming, learning, and having fun.

With a final flip turn, we get back to where the story began. To those who professionally "Just Add Water" all year long, the Fairfax County Fire Department, thank you.

Mike Wiedemann

Faircrest Cyclones