Music blared, people danced and the smell of a barbecue was pervasive at the Cornelia Warren Community Pool on Sunday.
But, it was a bittersweet celebration.
While construction is still under way on the nearby basketball courts, an event celebrating the renovation project honored two young men that the Westbrook community lost in the past year.
The celebration was a culmination of a year’s worth of planning for the $155,000 project following the death of 19-year-old Westbrook High School graduate Treyjon Arsenault last May. Arsenault was killed during a shooting at a recording studio in Portland. The day after, a large vigil was held at the Fraser Field basketball court that Arsenault and his friends would frequent.
Meanwhile, Arsenault’s friend, Derek Breunig, managed to raise some $10,000 in a crowdfunding campaign – giving half to the family and the other half toward renovations to the courts.
In February, Breunig’s older brother, David “DJ” Breunig, 21, died of an accidental drowning in Orono, adding another layer of heartache to a community still in mourning.
Suzanne Joyce, a close friend to both the Arsenault and Breunig families, played an integral role in coordinating the renovation project, which began with Derek Breunig’s donation last year and grew into a complete overhaul of the area.
During the past year, city groups and organizations came together and provided funding to make the complete project come to life.
“It was a tragic event that ended up being spun into something productive and beautiful,” Maria Dorn, director of community services, said in July. “Once people found out what we were doing, everyone kind of hopped on.”
The Cornelia Warren Community Association is donating $75,000 toward the project, which includes replacement of two full-court basketball courts, new lighting, seating and related landscaping.
Some $35,000 also came from the city’s Capitial Improvement Plan, $ 30,000 from the Westbrook Environmental Improvement Corp; $10,000 from the Recreation and Conservation Commission; and $5,000 from friends of Arsenault.
Sunday marked a celebration of taking the recent tragedies and turning them into a positive community project, one that when finished, will usher in a new era for the Cornelia Warren and Fraser Field complex, which hasn’t received significant upgrades since built in the 1980s. Additional work is also being planned for the adjacent softball field and surrounding trails.
Joyce, who gave an emotional speech during the event, said she was amazed by how the community came together to support the project and the two families.
“It’s been incredible what’s been accomplished,” she said.
She said around the same time she and others were researching figures and estimates for the courts, DJ Breunig went missing. His body was found two months later. She said that added tragedy brought another sense of urgency to the project, and brought in even more people to help.
She said Arsenault and DJ Breunig were good friends, and played football together at Westbrook High School.
“Both of them are smiling down today,” she said on Sunday.
Local organization Youth Move Maine also lent a hand organizing the event. Joyce said she stopped a headcount of the event’s guests at 150.
On Sunday, those who knew Arsenault tied handwritten notes to a fence surrounding the pool. In the background, the new courts were freshly paved, providing a preview of what’s to come.
“It’s important that people remember how it started,” Joyce said.
An event celebrating the renovation project of the Fraser Field basketball courts attracted more than 150 people Sunday. Community organizations, residents and city officials collaborated on the project in memory of Treyjon Arsenault and DJ Breunig.