Jane Deterding wants to make sure Wichita children get to swim this summer, even if their families don’t have much money.
“Every summer my mom said, ‘Get your chores done, or you can’t go to the pool,’ and that was just the worst punishment in the world,” said Deterding, chairman of Citizens Bank of Kansas. “We got them done and by 1 o’clock opening time, we were at the pool.
“It was our entire social mechanism. … And it’s crazy to eliminate that for needy families.”
Deterding said she and several friends were “chagrined” after state lawmakers imposed stricter limits on where welfare money can be spent, including at movie theaters and swimming pools. Gov. Sam Brownback signed the new restrictions into law last month.
What started as a lunchtime political discussion evolved into Swimming Is Good, an effort to buy and distribute swimming pool passes for needy children in the Wichita area.
Through a personal e-mail campaign and an online fundraising page – www.fundly.com/swimming-is-good – Deterding has raised about $800 so far. She hopes to raise 10 times that – enough to buy coupon books that would grant nearly 7,000 children a one-day pass to any of Wichita’s nine city pools.
Officials with the Salvation Army in Wichita have agreed to distribute the pool passes to families who qualify for services, Deterding said. City pools open Tuesday.
“To tell people they can’t use (welfare benefits) for a cruise is one thing, but not go swimming?” Deterding said. “I mean, with all the horrible things your kids can do during the summer with time off, it seems to me that letting them go swim just makes sense.
“It’s healthy. It’s a place to be with your friends and have fun. … Everyone deserves that.”
Deterding said she’s pleased with the response so far but hopes more Kansans will contribute.
“This is not to replace the Legislature doing what they should be doing,” she said. “But I can’t sit by and watch these kids not have that outlet.
“What started out as just a harebrained idea over lunch with some gal pals might actually end up doing some good for a lot of kids, so that feels pretty good.”
How to help
To make a donation to Swimming Is Good, an effort to provide pool coupons to children with financial needs, visit the group’s online fundraising page: www.fundly.com/swimming-is-good. Donations also can be dropped off at any Citizens Bank of Kansas location, or mail checks payable to Swimming Is Good, P.O. Box 75338, Wichita, KS 67209.