Program encourages confidence through swimming lessons

Logan Ridenour

A program that began as a thought, is now positively impacting hundreds of kids in Louisiana. Brothers Thurman Thomas III and Torrence Lee Thomas are the cofounders for Tankproof, a non-profit organization aimed at instilling confidence through swimming.

"It was eight years ago. I was still living at my mama's house and I remember we were kind of sitting around, putting some meditative thought in what we wanted to do that particular summer," Torrence Thomas said.

That's when the thought of swimming came up, and the brothers set out to research the idea.

"We found the startling statistic that 70 percent of minority kids don't know how to swim. And then we had to make a decision. Do we decide to do something or do we decide to keep things as they are as the status quo. So we decided to do something," Torrence said.

The brothers set out to help around 10 kids that summer, and ended up helping 60. With the number rising from year to year, they have taught over 1,700 kids in the last eight years.

With Louisiana being number one in childhood drownings, the goal is to make the kids drown-proof, said Torrence. However, swimming lessons are not the biggest takeaway.

"I tell people we don't teach swimming, we teach confidence," Torrence said. He says the greatest moments he's experienced over the last eight years are watching kids break past their fears.

He has taught kids who are so afraid of the water that they don't want to put their face in it, but by day eight they are jumping in and don't want to leave. "That's the best moment. When that happens, that is the most fulfilling thing to witness and to experience," Torrence said.

"If you can conquer your worst fear, you can do anything," Torrence said.

His hope is that once they overcome the fear of swimming, they can apply this same courage to other aspects of their lives.

"Our goal is to teach them how to learn. So what we try to do, what we preach to them is that the same principles you learned swimming, you can use it to learn anything else," Torrence said. 

He also said many of these kids come back a few years later to teach others to swim. So what started as a random idea has become a rippling effect of positivity and growth for children in Louisiana.

On Friday, August 2 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. a Car Show will be held to benefit Tankproof at Jambalaya Park in Gonzales. $15 plus a child's swim suit or goggles is the cost to get in. For more info contact Dustin 225-341-0688 or Michelle 225-405-1241.