For kids in the summertime, there's nothing better than jumping full-speed into a pool to cool off. So when 65 kids from a Northeast Philadelphia camp were banned from taking a dip at a private swim club because of fears they would "change the complexion" and "atmosphere" of the club, they couldn't understand why.
Creative Steps Day Camp paid The Valley Swim Club more than $1900 for one day of swimming a week, but after the first day, the money was quickly refunded and the campers were told not to return.
At first there was no explanation, but some of the campers recalled overhearing comments about the color of their skin while at the club.
Then the swim club president John Duesler issued this statement: "There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club."
So the staff at Girard College, a private Philadelphia boarding school for children who live in low-income and single parent homes, stepped in and offered their pool.
"We had to help," said Girard College director of Admissions Tamara Leclair. "Every child deserves an incredible summer camp experience."
The school already serves 500 campers of its own, but felt they could squeeze in 65 more – especially since the pool is vacant on the day the Creative Steps had originally planned to swim at Valley Swim Club.
"I'm so excited," camp director Alethea Wright exclaimed. There are still a few logistical nuisances -- like insurance -- the organizations have to work out, but it seems the campers will not stay dry for long.
And to sweeten the deal, the owners of Gumdrops & Sprinkles treated the kids to a free day of candy and ice cream making.
The banning has caused so much controversy that U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) plans to launch an investigation into the discrimination claim.
"The allegations against the swim club as they are reported are extremely disturbing," Specter said in a statement. "I am reaching out to the parties involved to ascertain the facts. Racial discrimination has no place in America today."
Members of the club came forward Thursday to defend the organization. They call the situation a misunderstanding.