The Donelson Christian Academy athletic teams continue to put the pieces of their home schedules back together in the midst of tragedy.
In addition to the damage of the school building, the Wildcats’ athletic facilities were hit hard by a tornado early last Tuesday morning. Scoreboards were toppled over, and light poles were downed, some in the parking lot. Parts of the bleachers and dugouts were taken out by the EF-3 tornado.
Athletic director Dennis Goodwin worked at Donelson Christian for 37 years. He was in Florida on a senior trip when the storms came through last Tuesday and stepped on campus for the first time two days later.
“Of course, I had videos, pictures,” Goodwin said. “I had a virtual tour, but the destruction, the pictures didn't describe the destruction, and it was really overwhelming.”
The school built a hospitality zone four years ago in between the football and baseball fields. Bathrooms, concessions stands and a box office were put into the relatively new space. The roof was torn off of the building, and wires and insulation were strewn all over the ground during the storm.
“It was something that serviced all of our athletic fields,” Goodwin said. “So it’s hard, but we're thankful that it's just a building, and none of our children or students were hurt. You know, we're just thankful that it happened at night and when nobody was on campus.”
That sentiment was echoed by middle and high school principal Bret Schierling, who was one of the first to arrive early Tuesday morning.
“You think more and more, ‘I’m so happy this didn’t happen at 4 in the afternoon, [or] 3 in the afternoon.” Schierling said. “If we had soccer, baseball and softball going on and those kinds of things, how much warning would we have had?”
With the damage, the home fields are out of commission, meaning the Wildcats will have to find other homes for their teams, but they have had no shortage of welcoming offers.
Parks, universities and other high schools have reached out to Donelson Christian to offer help in various ways, including playing host to the Wildcats’ games. The Wildcats baseball team scrimmaged last Wednesday night at Hawkins Field at Vanderbilt University.
Lipscomb, Belmont and Trevecca also reached out to play host to games. Goodwin said there were many offers from high schools, as well.
“The schools in our district and region, the people we compete against, they've been unbelievable showing support and offering any help that we need,” Goodwin said.
Donelson Christian softball coach John Carey said no softball games will be cancelled or postponed due to the damage. He plans to have his team practice at the school, so the student athletes can have some sense of normalcy.
“We believe that in the middle of this tragedy, we want our students to be able to feel a little bit normal,” Carey said. “So if we can get our girls here every day on campus, and they can see the movement, and they can see the rebuilding, we believe that's going to excite them about their overall experience.”
Carey put a positive spin on the situation. His high school team will be able to compete on college fields, and while they may not be able to compete at their school, that is something the students will enjoy.
“Even in the midst of things going so terribly wrong, that's a lot of things that are going unbelievably right for our kids at the moment.”
This is Carey’s third year at Donelson Christian. He previously taught in Trousdale County when, in 2008, a storm did similar damage to the community. He said the community and bond would be more memorable than the current status of the building.
“One day you'll forget that the building was torn in half, but you will remember the people and the outpouring of the love and the passion and the united front that we all had. We experienced that in 2008 there, and we’re experiencing it today here.”
There were hundreds of volunteers on campus last week. Once large debris and hazardous conditions are cleared, Donelson Christian will reach out for more help.
There is a GoFundMe account set up at gofundme.com/f/dcastrong for those who would like to donate to the school.