For most students, unexpected days off from school mean time to relax and play. But when school was canceled recently because of the flooding in Columbia, many Heathwood students jumped at the chance to work hard to help those whose homes had been damaged or destroyed.
So many students provided so much help in the week following the flood that it’s impossible to list everything they accomplished. But even the partial list below shows the spirit Heathwood students displayed in response to the disaster:
• By Tuesday, October 6, members of the boys’ and girls’ cross country teams and the tennis and cheerleading teams were venturing into some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods, helping to remove debris and personal items from flood-damaged homes.
• On Wednesday, when Harvest Hope issued a call for food and supplies for flood victims, members of the football team helped unload donations.
• Between Tuesday and Friday of that week, athletes from virtually every sport at Heathwood, including golf, swimming, basketball, lacrosse, track, and soccer participated in cleanups in neighborhoods ranging from Kings Grant to Lake Katherine to Forest Acres and helped with relief efforts at the Drew Wellness Center and the shelter at A.C. Flora High School.
• Younger students also helped out. Several middle schoolers helped babysit children at Shandon Methodist Church so their parents could assist with flood relief. Others worked with their parents to gather and distribute supplies or help out at damaged homes.
In all, the total number of hours volunteered by Heathwood students in the week following the flood is impossible to calculate but clearly was significant. Heathwood Director of Community Service Willis Ware, who helped coordinate many of the student volunteer efforts, has witnessed Heathwood students performing a lot of community service over the years but still found students’ response to the flood remarkable: “What I saw was students who were not only willing to help but eager to come together on short notice to help families in need. Watching the students, it was obvious that they were truly happy to roll up their sleeves and help out.”
Mr. Ware was particularly moved by a letter he received from a member of one of the families the students helped:
I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you, your parents, your coaches, and the amazing young people from your athletic teams who helped us during the flood this past week.
My in-laws located on Woodlake Drive in Columbia had two feet of water in their home as of the first of last week. They are both in their mid-80s, and no longer able to perform physical labor. It was them along with my wife, my sister in-law and I, that were left to deal with trying to figure out how to get the furniture out of their home and move them into the apartment.
It was as if by miracle that your crew showed up on our front door on Tuesday afternoon. Your community proceeded to spend the next two days with us moving everything out of the house, packing up all of the expensive belongings, and moving my in-laws into the apartment.
The Heathwood Community could not have been more courteous, accommodating, and pleasant. You all seemed honored to help. We were in a situation where we literally did not know what to do. Thanks to your team, we were able to get everything under control, and put my in-laws worries to rest.
If your young people represent our future, we are in “great hands”. No matter what happens on the field, you can rest assured that these boys and girls are champions off the field and in life.
Please accept my deepest heart felt thanks. The Heathwood family represents the best of the Columbia community.
Our students may have returned to school and to being focused on homework, tests, and extracurricular activities, but hundreds of people in Columbia are better off because of their efforts in the week following the flood.