Pastor Michelle Thomas and the Hope Floats Foundation have come together to launch The Fitz Scholars Fund in memory of Thomas’s late son, Fitz Thomas, who drowned in Loudoun County earlier this summer.
The Fitz Scholars Fund at Hope Floats aims to raise funds to expand access for children from disadvantaged families to participate in swim lessons and empower children to safely enjoy the water.
“The Fitz Scholars Fund at Hope Floats represents the best of what can happen when we rise to the challenges of our times,” Thomas, who is the president of the local NAACP branch, said in a prepared statement. “I may not be able to bring Fitz back, but I can help save the lives of others.”
Fitz was 16 years old when he died.
Cindy Tonnesen, chairwoman of the Hope Floats Foundation board and co-owner of SwimKids Swim School in Leesburg, said the fund “will embody Fitz’s values of love and optimism by saving the lives of countless children in his name.”
According to Hope Floats, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of 5 and the second leading cause of death for children under the age of 14. Children from low-income families have a higher risk of drowning, and Black children in the U.S. drown at rates as much as 5.5 times higher than white children.
More information and a link to make a donation can be found at HopeFloats.Foundation/Fitz.
Founded in 2016, the Hope Floats Foundation is a national nonprofit that aims to prevent drownings by providing scholarships for swim lessons. It partners with local communities to offer financial need-based scholarships in more than 190 swim school locations.