As entrepreneurs and creatives, "TANKPROOF" is our first “giveback” aiming to aid the community around us. We all know the stereotype: African-Americans don't know how/can't swim. Truth is, in this stereotype, there's a bit of truth. According to a study conducted by USA Swimming, the harsh reality is that 70% of African-American and minority children don't know how to swim. This issue extends even beyond race with the startling statistic that about 10 people drown daily, with at least two of those victims being children. In response to these eye-opening statistics, we sought out to bring change and promote progress by providing learning opportunities open to all underserved children. Launching Year One, our initial goal was to raise enough money for 10 kids, but with the support of the Baton Rouge community as well as local media outlets, we were able to raise enough money to give the gift of swimming to 70 children. Year Two, we were able to serve 120+ kids and young adults over two sessions, and in rounding out Year Three this past July 2014, that number grew to 225.
When I, Thurman, was only eight years old, I was moments away from becoming a victim of the horrifying youth drowning statistics. I was at a pool party for one of my friends and while playing in the pool, I ventured too close to the deep end. My footing slipped on the slick, curving dip of the concrete below and before I knew it, I was under the water, desperately flailing my limbs and in a very real panic. On that day, I was lucky enough to be saved by a woman who, without hesitation, jumped in and rescued me from a looming demise. Though I was safe and sound, I was shook-up and embarrassed that I was helpless to do anything about what just happened. From my experience, I can attest to two things. One of them being that it is very easy to get into a dangerous situation in the water, even in the most controlled and monitored environments. The other being the knowledge of how simple it is to teach a child how to save themselves from the potentially life-threatening scenario of drowning. In the grand scheme, we are providing more than just swimming lessons. Through these lessons, we are creating avenues for self-confidence, weaving fibers of trust, and building platforms for personal responsibility, which these young people can stand on for the rest of their lives.
We created TANKPROOF to have a two-fold social edge. Not only does it serve children and young people, but it also empowers our peers to give back and be apart of something bigger. What we understand about our generation is that cool things for the social good pique our interest. Some young adults have the mindset of “Well, I can’t give back now because I’m not where I want to be in life yet.” From the first year of TANKPROOF, we wanted a way to connect with our peers and compel them to be apart of this venture by eradicating that excuse. Every year of TANKPROOF, we design a commemorative tank top that our peers can purchase and know that 100% of the proceeds from their purchase is going to help make kids drown-proof.
The expansion of TANKPROOF is something that has been on our hearts and minds for some time. After three years of experience, growth, and success, we believe that Year Four is the year to take TANKPROOF to another level. With your help, we hope to make our dream of offering the gift of swimming to even more kids a reality.