TANKPROOF Thomas Brothers Give Back
The statistics are startling. Drowning is the leading cause of death for toddlers. Seventy-nine percent of children in low-income homes do not know how to swim. African American children are five and a half times more likely to drown.
Nine years ago, the Thomas brothers, Thurman and Torrence Thomas, were greeted with similar measurables. The stereotype they had heard for so long had some validity, but what could they do to change the status quo? As the most under-qualified agents of change (in regards to the world of aquatics), the Thomas brothers are musicians and creatives by trade. Creating under the moniker, “THEBROSFRESH,” “work,” spans from communicating with Top 40 staples and record labels to producing shoots for Teen Vogue and other major brands and individuals. The brothers “knew” how to swim, but didn’t have much time during the summer to participate. To put it short, they were fish out of water concerning teaching kids to swim.
Using what they had at the time, a buzz in the community, and a strong network of friends and supporters, they decided to sell “tank” tops to make kids in their community “drown-proof.” Thus, “Tankproof” was born. The original goal was to sell enough tank tops to pay for ten kids’ lessons. They raised enough for 60. As years progressed, the program has seen numbers increase (excluding the Baton Rouge flood year), since 2011 Tankproof has given the gift of swimming to over 2,300 youth and counting.
“We teach more than just swimming. We teach confidence. If you can conquer your worst fear, you can do anything.” Thurman explains. Torrence adds, “Most of our kids come in deathly afraid of the water. We teach our kids how to navigate a stressful situation by finding the courage to be uncomfortable, to respect patience in the process, and to learn how to ‘learn’, in a sense.” The notion is that once one’s greatest fear is eradicated, what’s next? What was once intimidating begins to become normalized. Tankproof encourages this mindset to extend even into the classroom during the fall. Tankproof’s students can take these learning skills and apply them to any area of life.
Due to widespread initial closures related to COVID-19, the viability of swim lessons looked slim to none. To aid the communities that they serve, Tankproof began distributing meals. What started as 200 meals per week soon progressed to 4,000 meals per month. To communicate this evolution, Tankproof describes its mission as: “providing youth the education and essentials to navigate life’s currents.”
This summer, Tankproof extended its program to the cities of Houston and Austin, Texas. Tankproof has facilitated numerous feedings in both cities and has launched its inaugural swim session in Austin, TX. This progress has not gone unnoticed, with Tankproof receiving accolades and inclusion in some of America’s hottest publications and news outlets, including Southern Living Magazine, CBS Evening News, MSNBC, and NBC Nightly News.
With even more expansion set on the brothers’ hearts, they endeavor to bring this life-saving gift to as many kids as possible.