February 17, 2014 at 6:44 am

Neal Rubin: Gilda's Club in the midst of rebuilding after busted pipe floods facility

Metro Detroit Gilda's Club in the midst of rebuilding after busted pipe floods the facility

Maybe she’s the world’s greatest optimist, or maybe it was just that she’d never had water cascading into her building before.

Either way, Laura Varon Brown’s estimate was a trifle unrealistic when Gilda’s Club Metro Detroit flooded 2 ½ weeks ago. “I kept picturing in my mind,” she says, “that jeez, my husband and I were going to have a long weekend cleaning up.”

The damage to the clubhouse and resource center for cancer patients turned out to be a bit more extensive. “Everyone keeps saying six to eight weeks,” Brown says. But those are contractor weeks, which are different from regular weeks:

“They keep saying it, even though two weeks have passed.”

Reaction was swift and support was strong after a fire suppression pipe burst on a frigid afternoon in Royal Oak. TV cameras rolled, reporters wrote, and friends sent love, prayers and checks.

It’s human nature, though, to move on to the next calamity once the sirens fade away. There’s always another good cause or a bad break.

Given the devotion its alumni have to Gilda’s Club, this seemed like a good time to buck the trend and peek back in — and Brown knows several things now that she didn’t when everything was still soaked.

The original estimate of $200,000 in damages, for instance, was a trifle low. Best guess now: $400,000.

Also, reclamation projects have their own terminology. “Mitigation” means drying out the salvageable parts of a 9,500-square-foot Sears Roebuck catalog home from 1913. “Restoration” means rebuilding.

“Harried” means Brown is working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, staying on top of construction while also trying to keep up with budgets, partnerships and the rest of her non-disaster duties. And “stubborn” means Gilda’s members are not about to let thousands of gallons of water disrupt their routines.

While many of the organization’s programs have relocated across the street, where Woodlawn Church has graciously opened its doors and meeting rooms, several support groups for newer patients have stayed put.

“It’s the scariest of times,” Brown explains, and the house is where they’re comfortable.

Never mind the hardwood floor that was delivered Friday, or the electrician who was poking around, or the muralist who came to inspect the wall she’ll be decorating in the children’s area, or the fans and drills and sledgehammers.

When you’re dealing with cancer, a flood doesn’t get much of a rise out of you.

Contest heads home

The deadline for the Detroit Tigers’ annual Jackie Robinson contest isn’t quite sliding into home, but it’s at least touching third base.

For 18 years, the team has conducted an art, essay and poetry competition in the name of the first black ballplayer in the modern major leagues. Prizes include game tickets and on-field honors during a pregame ceremony at Comerica Park.

The idea is for middle or high school students from the Metro Detroit area to meld creativity with Robinson’s nine values of success. Running down that lineup, they are courage, determination, teamwork, persistence, integrity, citizenship, justice, commitment and excellence.

Slashing line drives and stealing bases aren’t on the list, but he was remarkably dependable in those areas, too.

As for some of the fine print, artworks need to convey the spirit of Robinson’s nine values in a painting, drawing or rendering no larger than 22-by-28 inches. Essays need to be typewritten, double-spaced, no more than one page, and focused on “How can one or more of Jackie Robinson’s values help build peace and prevent conflict?”

Poems should explore one or more of the values and should also be typed, double-spaced, and one page maximum.

The deadline is 5 p.m. Feb. 28, and this is key: Each entry needs an official form, available at tigers.com/education or by calling (313) 471-2363.

If, on the other hand, your middle or high schooler can throw a baseball 95 mph or hit one 400 feet, call the Tigers’ main number and ask for Dave Dombrowski.

(313) 222-1874