WEATHERFORD Students and fans, faculty and family gathered this week to celebrate the opening of the Greg Welch Gymnasium at Weatherford Christian School.
The gym is a standing tribute to four Brock girls — Staci Lee, Mandi McWhorter, Lacey Osina and Whitney Welch — who were killed in a car wreck in 1998, less than two miles from the Weatherford Christian School campus.
Not long after the crash, Greg Welch, Whitney’s father, rededicated his life to Christ.
Welch died of cancer in 2004.
“This was such an exciting night for the WCS family and a long awaited occasion,” said Leslie Chalmers, the school’s director of development. “The game is in so much more than just an ordinary gym, this is a building that has been made possible through years of prayer and countless donors who never gave up on our dream to honor the memory of Mr. Welch and four incredible young ladies who left this earth way too soon.”
Chalmers said the excitement of watching players run out for the first time and fans filling the stands was truly “exhilarating.”
“Having the families of those lost there to witness and experience that night with us was humbling as well,” she said.
The four girls were killed on Dec. 19, 2005, when Rickey Carter got drunk and drove his pickup the wrong way on Ranger Highway, where he crashed into the car carrying the teens.
Carter was sent to prison for the crash that devastated the community west of Fort Worth, in Parker County.
Chalmers said that at one point during Tuesday night’s game she just wanted time to freeze because she couldn't believe that the moment had finally come.
“To be playing for the first game on this one of kind gym floor was incredible,” Chalmers said. “Knowing that only four short years ago, when I first came to WCS, there was only a shell of building and concrete floors with a small opening for a front door.”
Lin Bearden, president of First National Bank, and who attended the opening ceremonies praised the WCS leadership.
“WCS, like all of our schools here in Parker County, does a great job in preparing our children for the future,” Bearden said. “First National Bank is proud to be a small part of their success over the last several years. The fact that they are playing their first-ever home basketball game in their new gym is a testimony to their mission and spirit.”
He said it’s tougher than ever before for non-profits because there are so many worthy causes to support.
“Every year, the bar is raised in terms of how funds are being utilized, whether they are outright gifts or private-school tuition,” he said. “The leadership of WCS has made it a priority to deliver an outstanding “bang for the buck” in Christian education and I think that’s why they are flourishing. My hat is off to their board, administrators, teachers, and parents. They are a great team.”
At the end of the night the varsity girls won in overtime defeating North Dallas Adventist, 50-44.
“They truly played their hearts out, not just for the win, but for the four young ladies they have heard so much about through the building of the gym, said Chalmers, who also doubles as the girls coach. “This was more than a game to them, they wanted to win one for them. They never let up and played till the very end as a team, which is exactly what we have tried to do at WCS in completing the gym.
The boys were not so fortunate and came up with a loss.
Chalmers said she thought of statement Pastor Brian Bond made when leading the opening prayer.
"Let this gym be a place of healing for the families who lost loved ones."
She said she loved how the building is remembering a tragic and sad past, but is turning it into a triumph for the future both for their families and the families of WCS.
“It takes something that once seemed so hopeless and gives us all hope to keep moving forward,” Chalmers said. “It's more than just your ordinary gym. It tells a story of five incredible people and will for years to come.”
Lance Winter, 817-594-9902, Ext. 102