Thurman and Torrence Thomas are twin brothers who wished to support underserved communities in Baton Rouge and beyond. As artists and musicians by trade, the Thomases were already enriching their community with art, but were spurred by a very specific need in their community: swim lessons.
Inspired by a series of music stars using the television network VH1 to raise awareness and funds for an AIDS benefit in Africa, the brothers wanted to use their talents to do something similar locally.
However, a drowning incident at Red River in Shreveport that killed six teens, all attempting to save each other despite being unable to swim, revealed a shocking issue in our community: children, especially minority children, did not have access to swimming lessons.
“As musicians, we weren’t sure how our skill set would transfer into the world of aquatics. We knew how to get people to come to events and how to make apparel and merchandise, so we decided to create a tank top design in an effort to use those funds to get kids swimming lessons,” explains Torrence.
The tank top sales proved very fruitful and offered them enough revenue to support 60 children. The following year’s sales doubled, making them able to help 120 children, then 225 the next.
Their wild success allowed for the creation of Tankproof, their nonprofit dedicated to offering swimming lessons to those in need. Today, they employ swim team instructors and have developed their own curriculum.
Tankproof continued to grow from there, and so did its reach. In its ninth year, they were able to introduce Tankproof to the rest of the country and tap into eight different markets through appearances in articles and on TV. With expansion came innovation, and Tankproof decided to tackle a different issue: food insecurity.
“During the pandemic, we were able to put addressing food insecurity at the forefront of our brand. We were trying to service these kids, pretty much the same kids that we teach how to swim by helping them and their families by providing meals for them as well,” shares Thurman.
However, this initiative isn’t the only one Tankproof has been pursuing. This year was the first year they participated in South by Southwest, an international music festival that takes over the city of Austin, Texas during the third week of March. This festival is a huge opportunity for brands to showcase themselves, including Tankproof.
“For us, we knew it would be a chance to spread the news about our organization. We partnered with a company called Kin Euphorics to have an afternoon event where people could donate to the nonprofit and help spread awareness,” says
Despite all of their growth, the brothers haven’t forgotten Baton Rouge and still do plenty to support their local community. Through swim lessons and addressing food insecurity, they support local youth and foster families, veterans, and battered women shelters.
Every life they impact is substantial, and since May is National Water Safety Month, they’re about to change more lives. It’s a huge opportunity for the organization to spread awareness about the danger of drowning and how important it is for even experienced swimmers to stay diligent in the water. After all, conditions can change at the drop of a hat.
“In the last two years, we have put a lot of programming and social media posts into Water Safety Month, not just to raise funds, but to be a source of education. Most drownings can be prevented with the right knowledge and the right know-how. We not only value being able to teach kids but being able to inform adults and parents about how to enjoy the water safely,” explains Thruman.
This month, they plan to be very active on social media and throughout the communities they support with events catered towards preventing accidental drownings.
If you would like to promote water safety in our community, Tankproof would love your help. Get involved through volunteering, purchasing their merch, or otherwise supporting the nonprofit through their website, tankproof.org.