COVINGTON - Even though the United Cheerleading Storm lost all of its equipment and awards in an adjacent building's fire less than two weeks ago, the teams continue to practice and prepare for competition.
A fire destroyed the Burgess Amusements and Special Events building on Nov. 9 and left the United Cheerleading and Dance Training Center damaged after a leaking propane tank ignited the fire in the left rear section of the Burgess building.
"We lost everything; nothing is salvageable," said Scot Adamson, owner of the cheerleading business, which had been in that location for more than a year. "There's a little bit of the structure left, but the roof fell in and the fire wall fell in. It looks like something is there, but when you open the door, it's total devastation."
He said a lot of what was inside didn't catch on fire, instead it melted.
"There are blobs where there used to be computers, and the mats looked like logs because they rolled up," Adamson said.
The business also lost two tumble tracks, three tumbling pits, some trampolines and some professional sound and video equipment and speakers, among other business and training items.
"We're pulling together and trying to get everybody together," said Pam Wheeler, whose two daughters are in one of the organization's 16 cheerleading teams. "It's a family, and everybody's so close, so we're all trying to deal with it."
The business also lost all of its trophies and almost 100 banners it had collected over the years since opening in Covington in 2002 - something that meant the most to the students, Adamson said.
"The trophies we won and the banners are gone; for the kids, that's why they've been most upset," he said. "Banners represent the national championship, so those are a pretty big deal."
He said he will try to replace the banners - at least the most important ones - with reprints.
"One is very special to them; we had one of a young athlete who died this past year," Adamson said. "And we're getting bids to try to make new banners."
Because of the damage to the equipment and building, the teams were unable to practice for a Jam Fest competition at the Gwinnett Civic Center this past weekend.
"I just told the kids that it would be best if we waited," Adamson said. "The week of the competition, we usually change it a little bit to make it easier if they are struggling with something because we don't want them to go in worrying about that. This time, we didn't have the time to do that."
Wheeler said the children are sad and disappointed to miss a competition, but they understand and continue to practice.
"Rockdale Gymnastics let us rent their space; we get in there, but we are limited by the times that are available," Adamson said. "Also, some of the local churches are letting us come in, but we can't do any tumbling because we don't have the equipment."
He said he will buy some equipment using money from a reserve fund.
"We're going to start small," he said. "We've got insurance, but the insurance company works slow."
The owner of the burned building plans to have it rebuilt within six months, Adamson said.
Until then, starting after Thanksgiving, the business will use a building next door, in a space that's 4,000 square feet less than the old building.
"It was vacant, and we are able to move into it," he said. "When the building is rebuilt, and we move back in, we'll get everything."
The teams still plan to compete in Gatlinburg, Tenn., the first weekend in December.
"We're not going to let it hold us back to that degree," Adamson said.
Michelle Floyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.