This week the folks from the Austin-based nonprofit Tankproof are at the Texas Pool teaching lifesaving swimming lessons and water safety skills to local kids who may not otherwise have had the chance to learn.
Born in Louisiana, Thurman and Torrence Thomas are musicians and artists, currently pursuing their dreams of recording music through their band, Thebrosfresh. Though music is their forte, it’s not the only thing they’re producing.
With a strong desire to give back to their community, the brothers were inspired to make a change in the world of aquatics. Thurman shares a story of a near-drowning experience when he was young. “Since that day, my mother was insistent on putting me in swim lessons. We’re thankful that she had the means to afford them, or I could have become a part of the alarming drowning statistics that still exist today.”
The brothers were not experienced swimmers, yet they were confident in their ability to design and sell merchandise. This led them to fundraise money with custom tank-tops to sponsor families that couldn’t afford to put their children in swimming lessons. They called this initiative “Tankproof,” and thus the organization was born.
In 2011, the goal was to sell enough tank-tops to serve ten kids and they ended up raising money to sponsor 60 kids to take lessons at their local swim school. The next year, 120 kids were given the gift of swimming and from there the numbers have only increased year by year. Around year five in 2015, Tankproof was made an official 501(c)-3 and hundreds of children among inner-cities and low-income communities were learning how to swim in Louisiana.
As the COVID-19 pandemic ignites fear around the globe, Tankproof adapted to the new circumstances by turning their focus towards food security. Local community activations were always prevalent in Tankproof’s initiatives, but the pandemic caused children to miss meals that they would have usually received at school, making food donations a stronger point of focus for the organization.
Throughout the backend of 2020, Tankproof swimming lessons were safely expanded to Austin, Texas, and San Francisco, California, impacting communities that lacked access to swimming lessons and water-safety education. Rather than sponsoring children to take swim lessons at a traditional swim school, the team began operating with their own instructors and curriculum developed through research and experience and adapted to their one-week model of water-safety education.
Presently, in 2021, Tankproof is not only serving in all previous locations, but they are also expanding to Dallas, Texas, Hammond, Louisiana, and Los Angeles, California. To this day, they have proudly provided the gift of swimming for free to over 2,350 kids and served over 420,000 lbs of food to those who typically don’t have access to pools or the ability to pay for swim lessons.
- Drowning is the #1 leading cause of death among toddlers. (CDC)
- African American kids are 5.5x more likely to drown, 10x more likely at ages 11-12. (CDC)
- 76% of parents report that their children would be more interested in taking up swimming if they saw a talented swimmer that looked like them. (USA Swimming Foundation)
- If a parent or guardian doesn’t know how to swim, there is only a 13% chance that their child will learn how to swim. (USA Swimming Foundation)
- 17 million kids experience food insecurity due to covid-19.
- Tankproof has given more than 2,350 kids the gift of swimming. (since 2011)
- In 2020 alone, Tankproof distributed 420,000 pounds of food to families. That’s 210 tons and the same as 42 adult male African elephants!
- Tankproof has impacted the lives of kids in Louisiana, Austin, and San Francisco. This summer it’s expanding to Los Angeles, Dallas and Portland.