Edgewater Gymnastics opens doors one year after destruction

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - There's no place like home, and to young gymnasts in the Panama City area like Addison Woodhan, that's what Edgewater Gymnastics Academy feels like.

"It's my favorite place to be and honestly it's my second home."

Like so many homes on October 10th, 2018, Edgewater Gymnastics in Southport was gutted. What stood as a fixture of local sports for 15 years was barely standing at all.

"This isn't even our home anymore," coach Anna Rodriguez said tearfully in a video while approaching the wreckage for the first time. "It's not even there. I grew up here."

There was time to mourn...but also 365 days to rebuild.

Edgewater celebrates its grand-reopening with new on the anniversary of Hurricane Michael. Familiar faces got a sneak peak on Wednesday.

"I started crying, Madison Ford recalled when she first walked in. "I don't know how you couldn't have. It's such an amazing moment showing that we didn't stop trying."

"I was like, oh my gosh! I can't, oh my," Haydyn Ward exclaimed. "And then when I started looking around, I'm just like, the beams are perfect. The bars are perfect. The vault is perfect. The floor is perfect!"

Owner Pam Kitchen first opened the gym in 2005. Re-opening the gym this week was even more emotional.

"It's just such a special moment because to hear them, their voices and their emotion and their happiness, it has been such a long, long year...This is way more than I ever dreamed it would be."

Kitchen turned the dream into a reality working non-stop and inspiring others.

"She's always happy," Payton West said with a smile. "She's always just been there for each of us and it just makes me want to be just like her.'

Woodhan agreed: "she's my hero."

The inspiration traveled across state lines. Kitchen won FloSports' $25,000 Hometown Hero Award backed by RocketMortgage/Quicken Loans, earning the honor through weeks of voting and putting the money towards the gym mortgage.

She received the check on Thursday, but that's just the most recent example of help that has come from far and wide.

"So many people put this together," Kitchen added. "From people across the entire country sending us money, sending us gifts and equipment, to right here in town."

Now they're one family under one roof.

"This whole year, we pretty much have been separated," Kitchen admitted. "But today, we're all together again."

Money can replace equipment, but it can't buy that.

"It's not the place that we go to make Edgewater, Edgewater," Ward reflected. "It's the people that come here that make it Edgewater."

Those people are back where they belong.

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