Brittany Tretbar

Desert Vista girls cross country coach Dough Christofis, center, was proud of his team and other programs as they came together for Brittany Tretbar, right, after her family lost their home to a fire.

AFN file

It may only be wishful thinking, but Brittany Tretbar deserves to have such moments these days.

Tretbar, a Desert Vista junior whose family lost their home June 13 because of a garage fire, had recently come back from lunch with Jessica Tonn just ecstatic.

Tonn, the two-time Arizona state cross country champion from Xavier, had given Tretbar some of her clothes to help her cope after losing so many possessions in the fire.

"All she could talk about was having lunch with Jessica Tonn," Desert Vista girls cross country coach Doug Christofis said. "Jessica gave her a bunch of clothes and Brittany said she was going to be faster wearing Jessica's stuff so I said if that is the case spread some of those clothes out."

The gesture by Tonn, who is now running at Stanford, is just one of the many examples of people or groups from the cross country world who have come through for Tretbar.

"That meant the world to me," Tretbar said. "She has been my idol and I really appreciated that she took the time to have lunch with me and my friends."

The Marcos de Niza girls team brought gift cards and the Xavier team showed support as well.

The Desert Vista boys team hosted a dance party at one of the runner's homes where they had a cover charge of sorts with all of the money going toward the Tretbar family.

"I couldn't believe how many people showed up and helped raise money," Brittany said. "It was a chance to let off some steam, have fun and be with my friends. It was so great."

Christofis said seeing competitive schools step up was an eye opener.

"We have been chasing Xavier, been our rival the last few years, and they were so gracious," Christofis said. "All of the support from so many people is a testament to the human spirit."

Speaking from experience, life-changing trauma can break you down in ways you don't even realize, but the good thing is you begin to understand how many people truly care for you.

And, most all, what can keep you going is the idea of the goodwill many people have inside them, proven when they offer a helpful hand when you need it the most.

I've had enough devastating incidents - four to be exact - within my family and friends since the start of 2011 to know the little things in life that are normally taken for granted come to the forefront very quickly in such situations.

In the moment, it feels like you are being suffocated with undue pressure and there is this list, a mile long, of things that need to be done in response to what altered your life.

It seemingly never gets shorter.

So any deviation, something as simple as a card with a personal note that makes you smile, letting your dogs out while you are away, or as generous as an offer to help financially, is very welcomed.

Every single one of the gestures means the world because yours is in such disarray.

As a coach, Christofis has never been through something like this, and while he hopes to never go through it again, he has seen something special come from it.

"There is sadness there, of course, to see a family go through a tragedy like this, but at the same time there is a brightness," he said. "All I did was mention it to the kids and they took over from there. The whole community came together for the cause of one family."

Christofis has been amazed by the way Tretbar, who was the Thunder's top runner as a sophomore after finishing third in the Division I state meet, covering the 3.1-mile course in 19 minutes and 5.30 seconds, has approached the whole incident.

"Her positive attitude never wavered," he said. "From what I've seen she never let it get to her. She looked at it as a new start. That's all she said. It's a chance for a new start."

That began about a week ago when her mom, Marcy, and younger brother, Shane, and Brittany moved back into a home of their own after staying with the Maacks, a DV cross-country family who the Tretbars moved in with after the fire.

"The Maacks are wonderful and let us in with open arms, but it is so comforting to have a home you can call your own," Brittany said.

Just like when the Tretbars moved out what remained of their old residence, the Thunder cross country team - boys and girls - chipped in with the moving.

The new place will give them a sense of stability.

It is something that can't be taken lightly when your world, less than a month ago, was standing in the street while wearing pajamas in the wee hours of the morning.

"Their mom's mentality was they needed to get situated as soon as possible instead of living out of someone else's house," Christofis said. "They wanted to get back on their feet immediately."

It's the same time approach Tretbar has brought to her running career.

"She has a very tough spirit," Christofis said. "She is fierce and is hard to keep down. I worry about her, wondering what feelings she is keeping inside, but nothing stops that smile from coming out."

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