THREE YEARS after they were asked not to come back to a Huntingdon Valley swim club, 65 children from the Creative Steps day camp in Northeast Philadelphia were awarded a court settlement of $1.1 million.
The day camp paid the club a $1,950 fee to allow the children, who were mostly African-American and Hispanic, to swim at the Montgomery County club once a week. The children first visited the club on June 29, 2009, and overheard club members asking why so many black children were in the pool. Some of the kids said that they also overheard members using racial slurs while they were swimming.
The $1,950 fee was refunded a few days later and John Duesler, president of The Valley Club, told Creative Steps director Althea Wright that her group was no longer welcome to use the pool.
The incident led to a media firestorm and the club eventually filed for bankruptcy. It was sold for $1.46 million at auction in June 2010, according to court documents.
The U.S. Department of Justice said if the agreement is approved by the Bankruptcy Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, The Valley Club's remaining assets would be distributed once the bankruptcy case is closed.
The settlement also calls for $65,000 to be set aside to establish a "Diversity Leadership Council" between Creative Steps and former members of The Valley Club.
Although the swim club no longer exists, attorneys for Creative Steps said the club's former members and families of the children who were turned away from the pool have shown interest in shaping activities to promote interaction.
"What we hope it will do is provide an experience for these two different racial groups of children to get together and actually be kids together and learn about each other," said Brian Mildenberg, an attorney representing Creative Steps Inc.
"It's about healing the damage that was done that day," said Gabriel Levin, Mildenberg's co-counsel.
The settlement money would be split among Creative Steps Inc., the 65 children shunned from the pool and camp counselors.
The attorneys are set to receive up to a maximum of 20 percent of the settlement money, although they said the exact figure has not been determined.