CARLSBAD —Jaime Rae Kroupa was an outgoing and active 10-year-old and a regular at the Village Branch Boys & Girls Club.
“Jaime loved everything about the club, she really embraced all that was offered,” said mom Gloria Kroupa. “But her favorite activity was swimming in the pool. When I dropped her off after school, she would beg me to stay and swim with her.”
In June of 2008, young Jaime died of an unforeseen medical complication. Her mother stumbled through life in a daze, reeling from the blow of losing her child, doing her best to cope with the empty space inside her heart. Longing to connect with the memory of her daughter, Gloria Kroupa found herself at the steps of the Boys & Girls club pool. Hearing the happy sounds of children’s laughter, she ventured inside and before she knew it, started playing with them in the water.
In time, the pool became Kroupa’s safe haven.
“Gloria came every day to have fun with the kids,” said lifeguard Tony Maldi. “I encouraged her to make it official, and become a registered aquatics volunteer.” She did just that. For over a year now, Kroupa has come to the pool every day, assisting with swim lessons or simply joining the members for free swim.
In fact, she was recently honored as 2010 Volunteer of the Year.
“A heart with legs – that is Gloria’s nickname,” said club Chief Executive Officer Brad Holland. “Everyone wins by having Gloria volunteer, and her story is truly what the club is all about.”
“Being in the pool makes me feel closer to Jaime,” Kroupa said. “It does my heart good to be with kids that were once my daughter’s peers and playmates. Since volunteering here at the club, I haven’t had the need for medication or therapists. I take solace in the children … in being there for them.”
For more information, call (760) 729-0207, e-mail [email protected], or visit www.bgccarlsbad.org.