Life’s unexpected challenges can sometimes bring about some of its biggest blessings. At the age of 9, young Thurman Thomas attended a party with his baseball team. But, the little boy nearly lost his life that day. He almost drowned in the pool where the rest of the team was swimming and enjoying the day.
Fortunately, someone noticed the boy was in danger and acted quickly.
“One of the moms had to jump in and save me,” Thomas, now an adult, Southern Living. “It was the most embarrassing thing ever, but I was scared out of my mind.”
After that frightening incident, Thomas’ mother made a point to get her children swimming lessons to make sure they would stay safe. But that’s not something every family can afford to do, which is why Thurman Thomas and his twin brother, Torrence, decided to help children in their community learn this life-saving skill for free.
“African American kids are five and a half times more likely to drown,” Thurman told CBS News. “It blew us away. And we then had to make a decision, we decided, OK, what can we do with this?”
The twins started the nonprofit Tankproof in their hometown of Gonzales, Louisiana, to help provide lessons to the underserved youth in the area. Since starting Tankproof in 2012, the staff has trained 2,300 children in five cities to improve their swimming ability.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swimming lessons for children starting at age 1 to help decrease the risk of drowning.
“Formal lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent,” Debbie Heese, executive director of the USA Swimming Foundation, told the Washington Post.
However, many children do not have access to swimming instruction to learn this important survival skill and don’t learn to swim. In fact, according to USA Swimming, 64% of African American children, 45% of Latino children and 40% of white children have minimal or no swimming ability.
Tankproof is trying to correct that — their volunteer swim instructors work one-on-one with kids.
And since it’s prime pool time right now, they’re getting word out about their program:
Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, Tankproof is connecting with the community. While many swimming programs are on hold, the Thomas brothers and other Tankproof members are collecting food items and delivering them to families affected by unemployment and the extended quarantine.
And, where possible, swim training continues with proper personal protection in place! If that means teaching kids to swim while wearing a face shield, that’s what they’ll do:
“We believe everyone should have the opportunity,” Thurman Thomas told Southern Living. “Learning how to swim can actually save your life.”