Growing up in Carmel and Fishers, I always felt safe here in in the middle of our country where I loved John Cougar, his song Little Pink Houses, and my life that revolved around the gym. My gym … our gym … DeVeau’s School of Gymnastics. Our gym has weathered many trials and tribulations. It has stood through divorce, a fire, and now COVID- 19.
Opening the gym in 1982, my parents started the legacy of our great gymnastics’ teams. After their divorce, I watched my mom navigate her new role as a mother, coach, mentor, boss, and businesswoman. A teacher from Connersville, IN—a small town like John Cougar sings about— without gymnastics schools or people to teach it back in the 1960s. Without a teacher, my mom taught herself and her friends how to tumble in her backyard. She took that same love for teaching and applied it to teach herself how to coach, mentor, and run one of the greatest small businesses in Indiana. She taught me that same love for teaching, and I never realized how much I love and miss it until weeks like this hit. And wow, do they hit hard.
My husband and I bought the gym from her last January, 3 weeks after our daughter, and youngest child, was born. Eight weeks later, on Wednesday, February 28th, we all stood together watching our home, our gym, on fire before our eyes while there was nothing we could do. In over 35 years, that gym has taught thousands of young athletes how to work hard, persevere, be brave, stand tall, and try relentlessly until they succeeded. It has created dozens of college gymnasts and athletes and has even had our own U.S. Olympian—Samantha Peszek who started with us as a preschooler (a very rare occurrence in sports these days). That same gym is where my mom taught athletes who found their own passions to become doctors, teachers, lawyers, and countless other professions. Even more amazing is that through her teaching, she inspired so many of her students to follow in her footsteps. Shannon, Amy, Mandy, me, Lindsay, Blaize, Annie, Lyla, Chelsea, Hannah, Hannah, Stacy, Maddie, Ciara, and dozens more former athletes of ours began not only their athletic careers but also their professional careers with us too. These amazing teachers at this gym are what formed our amazing community. Our DeVeau’s family rallied around us in thousands last year after the fire. It was beyond heartwarming to see everyone who reached out to us from around the world to show their support and help our community. Our #deveausfamily.
As I sit here tonight, it feels like we are once again watching. Watching as seven fire trucks are parked outside the gym fighting flames in a foam pit while we are all helplessly standing by on the outside. The world around us is suffering from COVID-19, and I feel as though we still are not allowed inside to help. We have been called and taught to help and teach. To teach our athletes how to rise in the face of adversity, how to persevere even when it’s scary, and how to keep working harder and harder until you achieve.
We are watching a rippling effect throughout our small town of Fishers and our state of Indiana where 29,000 workers are getting laid off from COVID-19 this week alone. We are watching gyms around the country shut their doors for the last time knowing they will never be able to reopen them. Gymnastics and cheerleading gyms, as well as many other small businesses often rely on a small amount of working capital. Without working capital and no certainty of revenue or a way to continue within their current product or service offering in this market, these small businesses must close completely because they are not able to make their mortgage payments, pay their employees, and cover their other fixed expenses.
My husband has been diligently saving since the fire to prepare us for another situation such as the one we are in. However, the fire was an insurable event. COVID- 19 is not, and we are a very large gym with very large overhead. Without a definitive timeline, we are once again facing a scary situation.
America relies on small businesses and the people they support. They are the heart and soul of our community. As small businesses suffer, so will every other industry and profession around them. When our local community is no longer able to support a small business, that small business fails because most do not have customers beyond their small towns. When small businesses fail, they are faced with decisions to lay off their employees, their friends, their co-workers, their community. Those employees have families to support and are forced to cut their spending elsewhere within our community, further perpetuating the ripple. Mortgages become more risky, and we all learned not so long ago what happens when those flounder. However, despite all of this scary and crazy uncertainty we are facing in our adult communities, we have to remember that our children are watching.
Our children are watching how we react in the face of adversity. They are watching our work ethic and what it takes to make it through. They are watching as we adapt to our new environment of working from home. They are witnessing our reactions as fear and uncertainty around this pandemic spread, schools close, and our gathering size and travel restrictions turn into something from a sci-fi movie. Not only is our stock market tumbling, but our hope and happy things like vacations are seeming impossible and out of reach. While they are watching, we have to remember that we are teaching. We are teaching them that we are warriors determined to succeed as we juggle our work lives in a new environment. We are now burdened by new financial uncertainties, and all the while, we are forced to homeschool our children as they enjoy a front row seat to our navigation of unchartered territories.
Just like we are trying to stop this virus’ curve, we must stop this ripple. We have to show our children how we can continue our support for our community and its businesses, even in the worst of times, and when it seems impossible. We have to accept that the services these businesses are able to provide in the short-term will not look like they did a week ago, but that these services are still important and necessary to support in order to stop the ripple in our economy. I am not suggesting we ignore the necessary precautions for our safety or do anything to counteract the hopeful flattening of this curve, I am just suggesting that you keep our economy in mind as you make purchase decisions.
I ask that you choose to shop at the boutique’s make-shift drive through. That you continue to pay your children’s preschool even though it is currently closed and you have them at home, because they too have a staff full of teachers and overhead to maintain. I love my children’s preschool and pray that they too are still around when we all emerge into this new world in a few weeks.
I am convinced the way we will make it through our current worldwide crisis is through teaching. Through the same kind of teaching my mom started over 35 years ago, that stands as the backbone of our gym. Teaching our children how to be kind, how to work hard, how to pray, and how to remain faithful and calm when you are afraid. Under these same principles of teaching, we are now teaching ourselves and our staff a new way of work. We are teaching ourselves how to adapt our service industry to one of a virtual community. We are creating Facebook groups and Zoom meetings to ensure we are still able to make the world a better place through the children we love to teach at DeVeau’s School of Gymnastics. In the words of John Cougar, I encourage you to “walk tall.”
Please join us as we continue to support small businesses in our community and across America. If you are able, continue to support these businesses as we are teaching ourselves to adapt to this new world around us. Your help will allow these businesses to survive so that they still exist when we are allowed to go out into this new world again.