Planning a wedding presents many stressful moments in itself.
For Charlie Wentzky, there has been even more added stress following the disastrous flooding throughout the state Oct. 4. Wentzky, the South Carolina High School League assistant commissioner, and his fiancée Laura lost both of their cars and had damage to their Forest Acres home because of the flood.
The couple, who are getting married Friday, also had to find a new wedding venue because the one they planned to use on Bluff Road is unusable because of the rain.
“You go from two weekends ago watching football and the next Saturday your house has been gutted,” Wentzky said. “It has been a lot of ups and downs.”
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Wentzky, the former A.C. Flora athletics director, said he woke up around 3 a.m. the morning of the flood out of curiosity because of the rain and lightning he heard during the night.
The waters eventually began to rise, and Wentzky said it sounded like waves from the ocean pounding the steps of his front porch. Wentzky said one of his coaching friends from Hammond was able to drive to them and get him, his fiancé and children out.
“We didn’t have the massive damage that everyone had,” Wentzky said. “It was pretty surreal to come back and see everything someone owns out in front of their yard.”
Wentzky was just one of many from the Midlands athletics community affected by the flood. Several players’ families, coaches and administrators, including Heathwood Hall boys basketball coach and athletics director Jeff Whalen, also have been in cleanup mode since the flooding.
Whalen’s home near Gills Creek flooded, and he and his wife were chest-deep in water.
“Did it make me nervous? Yes. But we had to remain calm,” Whalen said.
Whalen, his wife and two dogs were rescued when a neighbor’s son brought his boat to begin getting people out of their homes. Whalen said they were able to salvage clothes and most of their children’s mementoes, which were on shelves. Two of their cars were destroyed along with the appliances in the house.
Friends of the Whalen family set up a gofundme account and more than $30,000 has been raised to go toward the rebuilding process.
“The support has been humbling,” Whalen said.
Both Wentzky and Whalen are staying with friends in the Columbia area and have begun the process of rebuilding by meeting with insurance adjusters and filling out FEMA forms.
Both of them say they have been overwhelmed by the support of their friends, fellow coaches and athletes throughout the Midlands, who have pitched in to help over the past 10 days.
“The rallying around from the sports community and support from teams, schools, athletes all doing their part has been amazing to see,” Wentzky said.
“Those from the schools you played against and those from coaching profession, those are the people that have reached out as quickly as anyone,” Whalen said. “And it has been great to see the difference the kids and young people were able to make. Their help has been tremendous, and that is why we can have a positive attitude. We lost a bunch, but we feel like we gained a lot more.”