While hurricanes are natural disasters that devastate communities, they also are a time when people come together as one and bring a sense of togetherness and community to stressful times. And that’s exactly what happened recently when hurricane Irma went over Central Florida and affected Bishops Gate Golf Academy.
While the storm hit on a Sunday night, the Tuesday prior BGGA staff were already making plans for the students and the facility on how to best weather the storm. Hurricane models were changing every few hours and no one really knew what path the Category 5 storm would take.
All the staff could do was plan out different scenarios to keep the students safe and ultimately make a final decision on if the Academy would evacuate to another area or ride out the storm.
The decision was made to keep the students and staff safe here at BGGA. Staff quickly started getting everything ready to brace for the storm. While a storm of this magnitude created panic in some, our students and staff couldn’t have handled the preparation any better.
The students came together to support the community before the storm by preparing sandbags to protect the homes. Many students had never experienced a natural disaster where they hailed from and were nervous about what was to come. With nerves present, they all acted with the highest of character to follow the rules and do as instructed by hunkering down in their condos while the storm ravaged through.
“Everyone just jumped in and did what they needed to do,” said BGGA Director of Housing & Student Care Lynda Hughes. “It was like a well-oiled machine.”
Hughes visited all of the houses in the first hour after the storm calmed down only to find all the students peacefully fast asleep as if nothing had happened.
Once the hurricane had passed and left BGGA with a mess to clean up and no power in homes, the students rallied and took pride in bringing their facility back to order. All the local hardware stores were bought out of rakes and students got to work cleaning up the facility and trying to restore order after such a stressful time.
“There were teams of students lining the streets helping clean up debris,” said Hughes. “There was a great camaraderie and they took such pride in trying to get their Academy back to its former glory.”
By Tuesday evening after the storm, BGGA still didn’t have power and it was unknown when it would be restored. The kids were delighted to hear that everyone was being packed up and taken to the nearby Disney resorts to wait for BGGA to have power back again. It also gave the students some downtime as a reward for their strong sense of community before and after the storm.
“I wanted the students to feel like kids again,” said Hughes. “I know a lot of them were fearful going through the hurricane. I was so proud of them all.”
The time spent at the Disney resort was enjoyed by all. The students were able to go to Hollywood Studios, Disney Springs or relax by the pool on Wednesday before a little normalcy on Thursday and Friday as school was back in session. The students then commuted from Disney to school.
Being in charge of 70 students at a different location provided a great challenge to our housing staff, but they all rose to the occasion and kept things running like clockwork.
One week after the storm, the students and staff returned back to BGGA, with power restored, with a sense of relief that they could return to their normal schedules and focus on bettering themselves in golf and academics.
Hats off to the staff that were instrumental in keeping the students safe and happy. A round of applause to the students for weathering the storm with such great spirit. We’re lucky to have everyone here at BGGA and couldn’t be prouder of our students-athletes and staff.