Evan and Brooke Thomas lost their son Maverick in an accidental drowning at the end of July, just a few weeks before his 5th birthday.
Now the couple want to educate other parents about the dangers around pools.
“What most people don’t realize is that it’s not like the movies,” Brooke Thomas said, explaining that often, with drowning, there is no struggle and no sound.
Maverick would have been a kindergartner at the Imagine Schools at Rosefield Elementary School, and the school hosted a fundraiser for the family Saturday afternoon, the proceeds from which will be used to create a non-profit organization in Maverick’s memory to help educate families about water safety.
“We’re going to use this as kind of a spring board for that organization,” Evan Thomas said.
Families from Imagine Schools and Surprise came together to support the Thomases and donated more than $8,000 worth of items for the event’s raffle and silent auction, said Joy Grainger, who helped organize the fundraiser.
Grainger, a candidate for the Surprise City Council in District 3, has a daughter in the same class as the Thomases’ older son, and after hearing about the tragedy, she and other parents wanted to do as much as they could to help.
“It’s just been amazing, just the overwhelming support and love and prayers from complete strangers,” Brooke Thomas said.
Children of all ages and their parents enjoyed the festival-like atmosphere, with a castle bounce house, ring toss, pie-eating contest and many other games. The program was filled with memories of Maverick, who wanted to grow up to be Iron Man and thought that being nice to other people was “the greatest.”
Brooke Thomas told the crowd that the family’s faith is keeping them strong and shared a few of the lessons she has learned about water safety for children.
“It’s not always about a safety gate,” Brooke Thomas said. “We did everything that we knew to do.”
In addition to traditional swim lessons, Brooke Thomas also told parents to consider enrolling their children in Infant Survival Resource, or ISR classes, which teach children from 6 months to 6 years of age water survival skills such as floating.
“We had no idea that that type of training existed,” Brooke Thomas said, adding that all three of her children have taken swim lessons through the City of Surprise.
Another thing to keep in mind, Brooke Thomas said, is that floating devices like life jackets or water wings are not necessarily appropriate because they give children a false sense of security.
The Thomases are working on a website for their organization in Maverick’s honor, called the Maverick Movement, Evan Thomas said. The website can be found at themaverickmovement.org, but it is still under construction.
“Brooke and I both feel this is just a start in a new journey in our life,” Evan Thomas said.