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Dreams Will Come True for Three ODU Employees

picture of Kathie ParkerSeveral members of the Dream Fund committee surprised Kathie Parker with the announcement of her selection. Pictured here with her is Tony Belk. picture of Fred RickardFred Rickard acknowledges the applause of co-workers during the announcement of his award in the grounds crew break room. Pictured at left are Chad Peevy, grounds manager, and Tonya McDuffie, grounds landscape supervisor. photo of Sean StevensonSean Stevenson shares a laugh with fellow campus police officers during the presentation of his “large check” by September Sanderlin, acting vice president for human resources.

The dreams of three Old Dominion employees will be realized this year, thanks to the ODU Staff Dream Fund.

Established in 2008 to help deserving employees realize a long-held dream, the special fund will help make the very different dreams - of employees in very different positions - come true. On April 29, each of the recipients learned about their selection via surprise announcements in their workplace, surrounded by colleagues and members of the Dream Fund selection committee.

For Kathie Parker, the dream involves a trip to compete on an international stage with a Sweet Adelines chorus and visit family at the same time. For Fred Rickard, it's getting the equipment to support the creation of motivational videos from animated short stories. And for Sean Stevenson, the dream will offer an opportunity to reunite, after 16 years, with family members in his birth country and to discover and share the history of a special grandfather with his wife and children.

The endowed Dream Fund, which is administered by the Department of Human Resources, provides monetary awards and up to five days of paid time off for staff members to fulfill their dream - pursuing studies in an area unrelated to work, traveling to another country or visiting family far away, for example. Both Parker and Stevenson will receive $2,000 each to fund their travel-related dreams, and Rickard will get $1,400 for the purchase of a computer and tablet.

In excerpts from their Dream Fund applications below, Parker, Rickard and Stevenson talk about their dreams.

Kathie Parker

Communications and training coordinator, Office of Finance

"My dream has been to compete with my Sweet Adelines chorus on the international stage. The international competition that is held every year involves Sweet Adelines from around the world - from as far away as Japan, Australia, Sweden. The honor of standing on that stage in front of superlative singers from around the world is a dream many hold but few achieve.

"In April 2012, at our regional contest, my chorus took first place for small chorus in our region (and in the top five small choruses internationally) and fifth place overall, which qualified us to compete on that international stage in November 2013 in Hawaii. This is a huge honor for us and I dearly want to attend so that I can stand on that international stage with my sisters in song.

"My dream is actually a two-part dream. I also have family living in Hawaii, and realizing this dram of spending two weeks in Hawaii would provide me with an opportunity to see them. I have nephew I have never met and I look forward to meeting Kozunori face to face and spending time with my brother, his wife and my four nephews. As I grow older, I realize the importance of family more and more. My brother and I have become closer emotionally, even with the vast physical distance that separates us, and now that we are the family 'elders,' we cherish one another. I would treasure the opportunity to spend time with my brother and his family. Talking on the phone is no substitute for being able to hug family.

"Financially, it would be difficult to cover this expense and the Dream Fund would certainly help the dream become achievable while not causing financial issues."

Fred Rickard

Grounds worker, Facilities Management

"When I was 12 years old I had a dream that was so amazing I couldn't forget it, a dream so powerful it inspired me from the moment I imagined it till years later, a dream that essentially curved my path in life, and made me who I am today. I called it Lifespan, an actual dream I had one night that over the years developed into a series of animation short stories that I believe will inspire others the way it did me.

"The stories are well designed, with a variation of different art styles I have learned. All the stories are interconnected with direction to one premise, the metamorphosis of life native and foreign. Once these animations are completed I will offer the videos free on YouTube and other free media sites, including A to Z tutorials on how I made the animations. My dream is to entertain, motivate and education with these animations.

"I took years for me to learn graphic design, screenwriting, conceptual design, video compositing and editing, music production to create my own original soundtrack, and animation. Finally, in 2012 I was read to follow through with my dream of creating the Lifespan animations.

"The computer I need to run professional video editing software to produce high-quality work is out of my price range. ... Also, the Intuos4 extra large tablet is a must. It is the best tool for drawing on the computer, perfect for concept art or digital painting. This tablet would allow me to make my animation completely on the computer, without using paper. This would eliminate hours of scanning and tedious cleanup work, cutting production time by 50 percent."

Sean Stevenson

Police Officer, Campus Police

"My dream corresponds with my children's expanding curiosity of the world and their awareness and discovery of our family and heritage. My dream is to travel to my birth country, the Bahamas, and reunite with my brother, father and family whom I have not seen in 16 years and whom my sons have never met. I am a first-generation immigrant, arriving in the United States at 18 years old, leaving all my family and friends behind.

"While the reunion with my immediate family is important, my late grandfather's impact in shaping the political and social structure of the Bahamas draws me home. I hope to research, discover and share this history with my wife and children. While the civil rights movement raged in the United States, the Bahamas faced similar injustices under British rule. My grandfather, Cyril St John Stevenson, helped form the Progressive Liberal Party, which gained power through peaceful elections and established independence from Britain in 1973. He was made Member of the Royal Victorian Order by Queen Elizabeth.

"Sadly, I was unable to attend my grandfather's funeral in 2006 and wish to visit his final resting place. I hope to visit the Bahamas and recover volumes of the Bahamas Reference Manual and 'Independence,' a historical photo essay, authored and published by my grandfather. I want to take my children to the Chapel on the Hill, a church he co-founded, and retrieve any significant documents relating to his legacy.

"On a modest police officer's salary, my dream of returning home has been delayed by the demands of children, work, life and a budget that never quite balances. For many years I promised my father I would return and introduce my children to their grandfather, uncle and a culture steeped in family history.