Campers hope swim club settlement will help fight racism

Posted: August 17, 2012

You probably heard earlier this week that a million dollar court settlement had been reached in the infamous case of the Huntingdon Valley swim club that closed its doors to minority kids from a Northeast Philly day camp.

News of the settlement seemed to indicate that the controversial story had reached its end.

But more chapters - positive ones, in fact - will be written, if members of the Creative Steps day camp have their way.

Alethea Wright, the director of the camp, located on Frankford Avenue near Welsh Road, said Friday she hopes that those who were involved in the case will be able to "show others that we can get past racism, and that we can unite."

Her words were echoed by her son, Marcus Allen, 14, who overheard white members of The Valley Club complain and fret on June 29, 2009 about the presence of black children from Creative Steps, who had paid $1,950 to use the pool.

A few days later, The Valley Club refunded the fee, and told Wright that her day camp wasn't welcome at the Montgomery County pool.

The incident attracted national attention, and the swim club later filed for bankruptcy.

"Racism is still present, even though it's 2012," Allen said, "but we can still work together so we can end it, just like we did at the Valley swim club. I think we can do that all around the world."

Attorneys for Creative Steps said Friday that 73 members of the camp - including 66 children - will share a settlement of $700,000 to $1.1 million, pending approval from a federal bankruptcy court judge.

The settlement money will be culled from sales of the swim club's assets, and money will be placed in a trust for members of Creative Steps who are minors.

Mikkel McKinnie, 12, who was among the campers who were at the swim club three years ago, said he didn't let the racially-charged incident get the best of him.

He hopes to use the money to go to college one day.

"I want to be a doctor," he said.

Contact David Gambacorta at gambacd@phillynews.com or 215-854-5994. Follow him on Twitter at @dgambacorta.

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