The Valdosta Daily Times
Gwen Register-Thomas, a longtime resident of Valdosta, saw a problem and quickly formed a solution.
During a visit to the Mildred Hunter Center for her swim therapy, Thomas noticed that there were only two children swimming. During the scalding hot summer in South Georgia, this struck her as odd. After speaking to an office attendant, Thomas discovered that many children are unable to swim at the center due to the $1-a-day charge to swim.
Unable to accept that there would be some children who could not swim during the summer, she began a Facebook campaign to raise money to sponsor children who want to swim this summer at the center.
“I was a teacher for many years, and being a teacher and having many teacher friends, I know that at the beginning of the year a lot of teachers have assignments asking what children did during the summer,” Thomas said. “I wanted to ensure that children who couldn’t say, ‘I went to Wild Adventures’ or ‘I went to the beach,’ were able to say, ‘I went to the Mildred Hunter Center and swam.’”
After posting on her Facebook page encouraging her friends to donate, Thomas saw an outpouring of love for the children.
“I had a friend call me and tell me to go check my P.O. box, and when I did, I found not only a check from her, but checks and notes from a lot of people.”
Tearing up, Thomas recalled one of the notes she found. “One of the notes especially touched my heart because the young lady said, ‘I am one of those children who had nothing to write when the teacher asked what did you do or where do you go during the summer.’”
On June 19, Thomas was able to distribute 40 passes for children to swim at the center. However, money has continued to arrive. In total, she has been able to raise enough money to allow for 72 children to swim at the center.
Thomas doesn’t plan to stop at just 72. She plans to continue raising money for the center to help children swim this summer.
Tickets to swim at the center are $1 a day, or $7 for the whole summer. Children are encouraged to meet Thomas at the center on Wednesdays at 2 p.m. to swim. Children meet at the Fry Street Pool located directly beside the Mildred Hunter Community Center, 509 S. Fry St.
Anyone interested in donating to help children swim this summer, can send donations to Gwen Register-Thomas, P.O. Box 5664, Valdosta, Ga. 31603; or can take their donations to the Mildred Hunter Center. Just let the attendant in the center know what the donation is for and it will be kept for distribution. Donations are not tax deductible.