Thurman and Torrence Thomas are the founders of Tankproof.

By Betsy Cribb
June 17, 2020
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Credit: Courtesy of Thomas brothers Multimedia

When Thurman Thomas was just 9 years old, he nearly drowned at a pool party with his baseball team. “One of the moms had to jump in and save me,” says Thurman. “It was the most embarrassing thing ever, but I was scared out of my mind. After that, our mom was wise enough to get us swimming lessons. That is how I learned.” But he says many other kids may not have that opportunity. According to the USA Swimming Foundation, 64% of African American children, 45% of Hispanic/Latino children, and 40% of Caucasian children have little to no swimming ability. The number is worse in low-income homes, where 79% of kids don’t know how.

Thurman and his brother, Torrence, are working hard to shrink those statistics. In 2012, the Gonzales, Louisiana-based twins started Tankproof, a nonprofit that partners with swim schools to offer free lessons for underserved youth. “We believe everyone should have this opportunity,” says Thurman. “Learning how to swim can actually save your life.”

Nine summers and five cities in, they have been able to provide free instruction for more than 2,300 youth, with plans to start a program in Austin, Texas. But this summer, in light of COVID-19, swimming lessons may not be an option. So they’re serving in other ways, giving out more than 1,100 meals a week to children in Louisiana and Texas. In addition to feeding kids who rely on school lunches, they’re purchasing much of the food from local restaurants to help support them too.