ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) On most days, you can find Doug Fonder coaching young swimmers like 17-year-old Khalil. At either the indoor or the outdoor pool, his permanent rasp is a testament of the countless lessons he's given over the last 47 years.
"A coach's role is to make every athlete you're with, the best they can be," Doug said.
"I get to the goal that I got to just by listening to him because he believed that I can do it, when I think I couldn't do it," Khalil said.
But his coach's belief in his abilities didn't begin in the swimming pool. Instead, it began when the Fonders adopted Khalil at the age of five.
Fonder remebers, "It came about, like, 'Would we help out for a short while?' We said, 'Sure,' more like a foster parent would."
Kathy Fonder, Khalil's mother, says she had to do something for Khalil.
"For some reason, God, somebody just thought, this little boy needs a home," Kathy said.
Doug says they were about to have an empty nest. "We had five grown kids. We had just put our last one in college."
"We went from going to Outback for dinner, to going to McDonald's again, for Happy Meals," Kathy said.
Even though plans changed quickly, Doug says they were meant to be.
"All of a sudden, it built into, you know, forever," Doug said.
While Khalil may have grown up looking different from the rest of his family, he says it's all the same to him.
"I didn't see it any different from having black parents or white parents. It didn't really make a difference," Khalil said.
"There aren't differences," said Doug. "Skin and color should not make a difference in anything that goes on in society. I was adopted, OK, and I think he's going to be a good spokesperson for that because he truly believes it."
For the last 12 years, Khalil has proven to be a regular chip off the ol' block, recently swimming his way into the Olympic Trials.
"I love swimming, I love my family, and I couldn't repay them in any way," said Khalil. "So when I swim, I do it for them to show them the love that I have for them. I love them to death, and I wouldn't change anything for my family."
His mother couldn't be happier Khalil came into their life.
"He means the world to this family. I mean, he is this family," Kathy said.