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November 22, 2022

Please see the story below from Aysha Haines – Manager of the EVDSC.

Our club has recently added a fall meet to our home schedule. Last year was the first time we hosted the Halloween Howler in Fernie, and we were only permitted 50 swimmers in the building at a time due to lingering covid restrictions. To say we were excited to invite everyone back this year for a meet at full capacity would be an understatement. 7 teams from BC, Alberta, and Montana registered almost 200 swimmers this year and we were thrilled to host a “fun sized” meet to ease back into the swim of things.

When we arrived Saturday morning to finish prepping the pool for warmup, we discovered that vandals had smashed several windows at the Fernie Aquatic Centre and had thrown glass and rocks into the pool. The pool would have to be closed for at least a week.

Against all odds and with more than a few people telling us it “wasn’t possible”, we activated the “phone tree” and to our growing surprise, each and every person we got on the phone answered with “let me see what we can do”. It took about 3 hours and countless calls and texts, but we were able to get permission to move our meet to the Cranbrook Aquatic Centre, about 100 kilometres away, but right next door in Kootenay terms.

The word went out to all teams, families, and volunteers, we grabbed our “gear” and hit the road. The swimmers were in the water warming up by 1:00pm, 5 and a half hours later than planned but in the water, nonetheless. 75% of the swimmers were able to make the shift to the new location. The reduction in numbers combined with the 2 extra lanes the new facility provided, meant that we were able to condense the 3 sessions into 2, and run all planned events.

The swimmers and their families had an amazing meet and bonded over the adventure!

We couldn’t have pulled off this “miracle” without support from so many different people:

  • Michael Boronowski – Chief Administrative Officer, City of Fernie
    • Who was away but got on the phone and connected us with his counterpart in Cranbrook (after waking up a few first responders to get after hours numbers!)
  • Trevor Thors – Operations and Events Manager, City of Cranbrook
    • Who started waking people up in Cranbrook!
  • Tina Cadieux – Aquatics and Program Manager – City of Cranbrook
    • Who took our crazy idea to heart and started working the phones.
  • Sam Liptak – Facility Supervisor
    • Who managed to schedule enough staff and divert public programming from the main pool so the meet could go ahead.
    • Who came in on their day off to allow our club to still hold our event!!!
  • Trevor Nicholson – Our Referee –
    •  Who was skeptical at first, but extremely supportive of our crazy plan.
  • Tourism Fernie
    • who stepped in quickly to help ensure families could get refunded hotel rooms where possible.
  • All our volunteers who stepped in to save the day.
  • and of course, the swimmers whose smiles made all the effort worthwhile!!

We had a few big take aways from this experience. First and foremost, let’s hope we never have that happen again! But just as important was that you don’t know what can or can’t be done if you don’t work the problem through to an answer. At any one of a dozen steps someone could have said “no”, and it would have just been a meet cancelled due to unfortunate circumstances. We have learned that in exceptional circumstances people step up to help. We are first and foremost a community and community pull together in tough times. Our volunteers are amazing, but they are amazing in the same way that all volunteers are amazing; community members pulling together to provide the best possible experience to the swimmers.

We may have opened the door, but our volunteers saved the day by walking through that door.

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