Olympic Swimmers Christen New Pool at Local Boys & Girls Club
Cherish Daily and T’Mya Harrison were understandbly nervous. The members of the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club were about to swim with an Olympic Gold Medalist.
Simone Manuel, the first African-American female to win an individual gold medal in swimming, reach down and helped Cherish and T'Mya adjust their swim caps and goggles. A few feet away, Olympic Silver Medalist Maritza McClendon offereed words of encouragement as the relay was about to begin. Manuel and McClendon joined club members and area youth swimmers as the first to dive into the club's renovated swimming pool. The milestone was the centerpiece of Splash Day: Dive In, Dream Big, Achieve, a new SEED event planned and coordinated by CSL graduate students who collaborated with several stakeholders including USA Swimming, TYR Sport, Swim RVA and the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club.
"Facilities like this are so amazing and so awesome," Manuel said while smiling. "It's awesome these kids can learn to swim or just come and have fun and make memories."
More than 250 kids certainly made memories as they interacted with the Olympians in a program designed by the CSL students. Before diving into the pool, groups of students were led to a huge banner painted with the Olympics rings. The kids, using multi-colored post it notes, wrote down their goals, what inspires them and what they want to achieve. They placed their answers inside of one of the rings. Manuel and McClendon joined in, asking club members questions while taking pictures and signing autographs.
The program moved into the gym, where Manuel and McClendon told their inspiring stories that led to Olympic Glory.
"Swimming is a life saving skill," said McClendon. "You think about all of the opportunities it can lead to: go to beack or the pool, swiming with your friends and having fun. That can turn into a sport that can actually take you further. I helped me get a scholarship to go to college for free, not to mention travel to amazing places and make lifelong friends."
Following the Q & A, the Olympians and selected children changed into their swim gear and hit the pool for a once in a lifetime expereince not just for the youth swimmers but Manuel as well.
"it was so awesome to hear their stories. I just hope they are inspired to work hard and dream big,
The event was the first official programming for the club, which had been closed for 15 months for a fullscale, $7 million renovation.