Righting a Hurtful Wrong

By Jim McCloskey

I came across this news item a couple weeks back and have wanted to share it with you ever since.

Written by Suzanne Perez Tobias for the May 24 edition of the Wichita Eagle, it’s about one person’s response to the Kansas legislature’s decision to prevent the state’s needy citizens from using any public assistance money to go to public swimming pools.

Full disclosure:  I think this was and is a bad idea, and I included an early report on the decision in the WaterShapes Web Café of our April 22, 2015 newsletter under the “Totally Uncool Dept.”  This, I thought, was the best vehicle I had for expressing my reaction to what I saw (and see) as an attempt to make misery just a wee bit more miserable rather than a worthy exercise in controlling runaway government spending or curbing welfare abuse.

So up steps Jane Deterding, chairperson of Citizens Bank of Kansas, who is quoted thusly by Ms. Tobias:

“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.  . . .  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.”

Great!  And Ms. Deterding took the next giant step by getting involved.  According to Tobias, “Deterding said she and several friends were ‘chagrined’ after state lawmakers imposed stricter limits on where welfare money can be spent.  . . .  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.”

Even greater!   With a few emails and some quick online fundraising, Deterding had collected about $800 by the time the story was published and set a target ten times that high – enough, she said, to purchase one-day passes for nearly 7,000 children to have fun at their choice among Wichita’s nine city pools.  The article continued:

“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.”

The article ended with a sidebar labeled “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.”

My donation is on its way.

To see the original Wichita Star article and learn more, click here.

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