Community ‘Supports Our Teachers’

Published 7:45 pm Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Austin Thomas, owner of Fitness Unlimited, is suspended in air but headed for a splashdown in a dunk tank Monday during the Support Our Teachers fundraiser. Jessica Harris (right) was one of the many contestants who paid $5 each to throw softballs and send Thomas into the drink. (WDN Photo/Christ Prokos)


The idea originated in a staff brainstorming session a few months ago. The reality became a party, a donation drop-off point and a chance to send Fitness Unlimited owner Austin Thomas to the depths of a dunking booth.
Monday, locals bearing school supplies poured into Fitness Unlimited in Washington, to donate to the fitness center’s “Support Our Teachers” drive. Notebooks, paper, index cards and crayons were dropped off, along with paper towels and hand sanitizers. Stores like East Carolina Supply in Plymouth, Lowes, Office Depot and Hibbett Sporting Goods contributed to the mound of supplies. Others — Russell’s Men’s Shop, Just My Cut, Frank’s Pizza, Inner Banks Hair Salon and Tetterton’s Shoe Shop — gave gift certificates to be raffled off to raise even more money for the cause.
It’s a cause near and dear many Beaufort County Schools’ teachers: how to get much needed supplies when classroom budgets won’t stretch to cover the basics.
Thomas learned firsthand that teachers often pay for supplies out of their own pockets when his wife, Amy Thomas, was a teacher. With friends and many fitness center clients working as teachers, the staff at Fitness Unlimited decided their next campaign would directly benefit local teachers, Thomas said.
“Ultimately, who supports (Fitness Unlimited) is our community,” Thomas explained. “I think it’s just common sense to support the folks who support you. And teachers have always been good to us.”
Thomas said that over a week’s period, the fitness center took in about $1500 to $2000-worth of supplies.
Monday, event organizers were going for cash when they put Thomas in a dunking booth and offered up chances to dunk him, and personal training director Edwin Castro, with a well-aimed softball at $5 for three tries.
Nine throws sent Thomas to the bottom of the tank, while around him, nearly 50 people  “shook it like a pom-pom” in a free, outdoor Zumba class.
Fitness Unlimited had never hosted an event of this kind, but Thomas already has ideas as to how it will be better next time around. For now, he and the Fitness Unlimited staff will be sorting through and distributing the donated supplies just as teachers and kids jump into “back-to-school” mode.