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Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Local Pool Gets Big Boost From Innovative

Pictured (from left) are STSA board members Yvonne Freeman and Kirk Boeger; Innovative officers Janette Millin-Young and Elisa Hodge, and  STSA Executive Director Joey Hamilton.A big splash was heard around the Nazareth Pool Thursday morning when a $20,000 check from Innovative Communication Corp. was presented to the St. Thomas Swimming Association (STSA).
The donation will make big waves in the association’s scholarship fund, said STSA’s youthful executive director Joey Hamilton.
Grinning from ear to ear, Hamilton described to Innovative’s officers—deputy CFO Elisa Hodge and public relations director Janette Millin-Young—how the donation will be used.
"The board of directors decided it would be better serve the entire community if we put it toward our scholarship fund," Hamilton said. "We have the Making Waves program, but that is just for high school students. This will help everybody."
He said the funds will help swimmers of all ages in the following programs:
• the Splish Splash Swim School, which offers group swimming instruction to those ages 6 months to adults;
• the Stingrays Swim Team, which offers children under the age of 18 the opportunity to compete within the U.S. Virgin Islands (as well as internationally) and offers a chance to receive college scholarships; and
• the STSA Aquatic Rehabilitation program, which offers both group and personal swim sessions designed for persons with chronic diseases and disabilities.
In appreciation of the generous donation, the scholarship fund will be renamed the Innovative Communication Corp. Aquatic Programs Scholarship Fund.
Millin-Young said Innovative has long contributed to a similar program on St. Croix, "so we decided to contribute to St. Thomas, as well."
Also on hand for the check presentation were Yvonne Freeman, a 20-year STSA member and past board president, and board member Kirk Boeger, who has also supported the pool for years as a volunteer swim coach.
Speaking later, Hamilton was still sky-high about the windfall. "Oh my gosh," he said, "it’s such a nice thing—especially now with money being so tight these days. It’s harder to raise money."
Since opening in 2007, the pool has had a hard time keeping its head above water financially, so to speak. It couldn’t have gotten started without a $125,000 donation from Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises. (For a history of the pool, see related link below.)
Hamilton got an early introduction to the pool’s financial woes when he was hired last September—when the pool had had to close for the month "due to a government program that was late in getting to us."
For the pool’s October re-opening, he said, "we had to raise the fees for some of our programs, or close our doors. Hamilton said the modest increases, like an $8 fee hike for group swim lessons, "were just enough to get us over the hump."
Hamilton is hopeful of more sponsorship. "Before Innovative stepped in, we raised corporate sponsorship options. Maybe the Innovative donation will get the ball rolling. It’s such a good cause, to see kids living on an island learning to swim and to compete. You can see immediate results."
For more information, visit the group’s website.

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