Going the Extra Mile (Literally) for Heathwood

Monday, May 18, 2020



Beep….Beep…. Beep!  Rise and shine!   It is 5:30 am.

Prior to Covid-19, I would wake bright and early each morning to ensure that Celia (Class of ‘23), Nicholson (Class of ‘26), and I were out the door by 7:00 am and on our way to Heathwood.  As an administrator, I like to be there by 7:30 and it takes us 29 minutes to get from our home in Blythewood to the gates of Heathwood Hall.  I have tried different routes or altering our departure time, but it seems to always take the same amount of time to get there.  That means an hour of each day is spent traveling back and forth to Heathwood.  We take the backroads, luckily against the flow of traffic, only pass through two stoplights, and try our best to have quality family time in the car together.  There are often times that we go to and from school more than once a day.  But because we are a bit farther away from campus than some other families, we typically don't return home for forgotten lacrosse sticks, missing laptop chargers, or an after school snack.  If one person has a meeting, practice, or special event to attend, we all stay.  Therefore,  several nights a week we don’t return home until 6:00 pm or later.  My car is filled with extra clothes for a last-minute hang-out with friends, a plethora of sports equipment, pencils and paper for study sessions, and blankets for a nap on the ride.   It is a sacrifice, but we do it willingly for Heathwood.  Our school is not a community-based school, but it is a school that is based on community. The Deese Family is grateful to be a part of this community, so we are willing to drive the distance.

We love our home in Blythewood, the extra space, the quiet neighborhood, and closer proximity for my husband to travel to work in Camden.  But we also love Heathwood.  And so, we drive the distance.

I could list 29 reasons why we are willing to go this far for Heathwood, one for each minute that it takes for us to get there.  The beautiful campus with all of its green space, the caring teachers who make it a priority to form relationships my children, the strong athletic program that focuses not only on skill development but also character development, the hands-on experiences that foster a love of life-long learning, the PEAK program that helps students engage with the outdoors and develops leaders, the delicious Dining Commons that offers more options than most restaurants in Columbia… the list can go on…  The bottom line is that once we arrive, we are all in our Happy Place. It is worth every bit of the 29 minutes it takes us to get here.

Now that we are learning from home, I actually miss that drive.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who yearns to travel down “Heathwood Road” to search for sunflowers, watch the crops grow, and spot Williams-Brice Stadium.  When you reach the point where you can see the iron gates and glimpse the bell tower, you know you have reached your home away from home.  It is a peaceful way to start and end each day.

However, during this time away from campus, I still have been driving “to Heathwood” in a different way.  Over the last few weeks, either I or someone from my family, has driven to deliver:

--47 plants to all of the faculty members in my division to show our appreciation for their hard work

--70 rolls of toilet paper to every member of the freshman class for a student government campaign

--51 sets of books to all kindergarteners, first graders, and their teachers

--62 yearbooks to students excited to see pictures of their friends and fun times from the past year

Delivering these items was a humbling experience.  The Deese Family is not the only one who drives the distance for Heathwood.  We delivered to Elgin, Camden, Gilbert, Lexington, Chapin, Columbia, Cayce, Orangeburg, and beyond. It was touching to spot those Heathwood yard signs, proudly dotting yards all over the Midlands. When we physically “drove the distance” to the homes of our families,  it was evident just how far (literally and symbolically), families are willing to go to be a part of the Heathwood community.  It is the families of this special place that form our community, not a map.   I am looking forward to gassing up the car and driving down Heathwood Road again as soon as possible. Until then, I will honk and wave from afar.