Czech Republic army Capt. Magdalena Dvorakova, queen of Norfolk’s 2009 International Azalea Festival, said she hadn’t expected the children to be able to communicate with her when she visited St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children today. 

But communicate they did, through smiles and gestures and eye contact. “I felt like the kids responded to me,” said the queen, pictured at left with 13-year-old Nathaniel. “When you can make that eye contact, you can really tell their personalities.” 

Dvorakova met with some of the children during class and read them “There Goes a Mermaid!” by Norfolk children’s author Lisa Suhay; the Home is sponsoring publication of a new edition of the book, which tells the tale of the mermaid sculptures that cropped up throughout the city as a public art project. 

The queen also met some of the SMHDC staff, including Tara Dean, a nurse who is preparing to deploy later this year with the Virginia National Guard. Dean talked with her about how the children and young adults who live here receive complex, around-the-clock care. Dvorakova  said she found St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children to be “amazing.”

“It doesn’t look like a hospital,” she said. “It feels like home.”

You can read a little more about the queen and her visit to SMHDC here, on the website of The Virginian-Pilot newspaper. 




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