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United Way of South Hampton Roads Rolls Out Red Carpet at Campaign Awards Luncheon

Every child has a dream. Some want to grow up to be firemen. Others nurses. Little boys want to be policemen or astronauts. Girls, lawyers or veterinarians. Throw in the occasional wish to be a superhero or a princess and it is plain to see that the imagination is limitless when it comes to what children believe they may someday become.

Homeless children have dreams too. But for many, those dreams are placed on hold. On hold until, first, their wishes come true. They wish for a job for mom or dad. A roof over their heads. A comfortable bed in which to sleep. The fighting and the beatings to stop. A safe and quiet environment to do their homework. The hunger to go away.

Only after those wishes come true can homeless children truly begin to dream.

At one time or another, more than 7,700 children in Hampton Roads face homelessness. Eight-year-old Nate was one of them. Two years ago, through no fault of his own, Nate’s world was turned upside down. His mother was a victim of domestic violence. It was rare that he got a good night’s sleep to help him stay alert in school. Nate was failing kindergarten. He wished for things to change.

Nate’s wishes began to come true the day he and his mother ended up in a ForKids shelter. Founded over 20 years ago, first as a local shelter for families, ForKids works to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty by helping families in crisis get back on their feet. For Nate, shelter at ForKids meant a safe place to stay, hot meals, mentoring and tutoring, counseling, and self-sufficiency for his mother.

Soon, Nate was no longer failing Kindergarten. According to ForKids CEO Thaler McCormick, within 6-8 months he was enrolled in a gifted children’s program. He is now a straight-A student. And today, Nate can dream.

On June 7, over 500 guests in a crowded ballroom at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott got to meet Nate and hear his dream.

“I really want to be a Navy SEAL,” Nate shares in a videotaped interview. “Because it’s about helping protect the country, and helping people, and helping save people from bad guys,” Nate explains in a manner well beyond his tender age.

Nate proudly displays coveted Navy SEAL challenge coins presented to him by RADM Tim Alexander (pictured) and SEAL Team 10. Photo courtesy of MC2 Meranda Keller, USN

But the crowd has gathered here at the United Way of South Hampton Roads Campaign Awards Luncheon not to hear about domestic violence or the plight of homeless children. They have gathered to thank and recognize the individuals, public and private institutions, agencies and corporations that help improve people’s lives and strengthen the community through the United Way Campaign.

As the Academy Awards theme (complete with red carpet, “paparazzi” and Hollywood movie characters) suggests, those being recognized today are the “Stars” who succeeded in contributing the most to the “community chest.” A chest that goes to funding needs such as food, shelter, education, programs for the disabled, the elderly, and others who are the most vulnerable in the community.

Carol McCormack, President & CEO, United Way of South Hampton Roads enjoys a jovial moment with “Robin Hood.” Photo courtesy of Lori Absher

Carolyn Abron-McCadden pictured with “Captain Hook.” Photo courtesy of Lori Absher

Thanks to the Stars, in 2011 the United Way of South Hampton Roads Campaign raised $17.5 million, exceeding its goal by $200,000.

We don’t know if Nate will become a Navy SEAL. What we know is that in his case, the community did not fail. What we also know is that at a time when resources are tight… when the economic news is rarely uplifting… when many families face their own challenges… by contributing to one of the most successful United Way Campaigns of the agency, this community truly exemplifies the true meaning of the United Way slogan LIVE UNITED.

ForKids was awarded the 2011/2012 Agency Partner of the Year Award.


Click here to see list of award recipients and to download a copy of the 2011 Annual Report

Click here to see MORE PHOTOS from the Super Star Finale Luncheon

Click here for “highlights” video produced by Hampton Roads Social


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