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Hope floats, especially when Old Dominion University students and staff share their time and resources with area children.

In October the Norfolk Silver Dolphins swim team, a diverse squad composed of more than 100 children from age 6 through 16, suffered the blow of having its head coach resign to work for a private team in another city. A number of the best and brightest Dolphins followed the coach to his new team. The result of this episode, taking place only days before the local team's first meet of the season, was crushing to morale.

While many children on the Silver Dolphins are told that their sport can be a route to higher education, most of the young swimmers had never set foot on a university campus until last month when they were invited to ODU's Scrap Chandler Pool in the Health and Physical Education Building. Most of the children arrived early and were treated to seeing the Old Dominion team practice. Murmurs of "Whoa, that guy's fast" and "I wanna swim like her" could be heard echoing along the pool deck.

With a green light from President Roseann Runte, Old Dominion University took the plunge to help shore up the Silver Dolphins. On Nov. 15, the first in a series of clinics held by the ODU team began with 15 children basking in the individualized attention of the ODU team members and head coach Carol Withus.

"We're really happy to be able to do this for the kids," Withus said as she watched her team take on the roles of big brothers and sisters to the children. "I think this is the kind of thing that helps everyone involved."

Beverly T. Evans Sr., a recreation supervisor with Norfolk's Recreation, Parks and Open Space department, oversees the Silver Dolphins and has been charged by Assistant City Manager Nancy Johnson with the task of rebuilding the team. Standing poolside at the Scrap Chandler facility, Evans was all smiles, as were parents, grandparents and the children themselves.

"This is a Christmas card right here," Evans said, framing the scene with her hands. "Yes it is. I want to just take a picture of this and send it all
around so people see how much difference they can make in a child's life."

This article was posted on: November 16, 2005

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