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Making (Less of) a Splash

March 9th, 2012 - By Therese Madden

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In the past eighteen months, Pat Imms has lost over 130 pounds. She did it with a change in attitude and a lot of swimming. The Salvation Army Kroc Center in North Philadelphia provided a safe and supportive place to get her toes back in the water and catch that wave of success.


Pat Imms taking her morning swim

Photos by Matt Campbell

Patt Imms starts her day at least 5 days a week with a swim.

The 56-year-old jumps into the pool at The Salvation Army Kroc Center in North Philadelphia. Imms has lost 130 pounds since she started swimming here almost a year and a half ago. At that point she weighed close to 400 pounds.

Taking a break, she holds on to the side of the pool and reflects on her progress. “When I first got here I couldn’t even get to the steps right there, and so now I do a mile which is up and back 64 times, it’s pretty effortless now, not that it sounds effortless with my shortness of breath, it’s just been a miracle.”

Not quite a miracle. Imms has drastically changed the way she eats, and she’s swimming, plus there is a fitness center here she uses as well. What is remarkable, is that after years of trying to lose weight, this time she’s doing it, and enjoying herself. “I could have written a dissertation on what you are supposed to do, that was the piece that was so painful was that I knew exactly what I should do and I would do it for a while. And then I would lose the momentum or something would happen and I would use food to make it feel better. Now I use coming here to feel better, it’s just a different reward system.”

The Salvation Army Kroc Center

The Salvation Army Kroc Center Kids Swimming Area

Located in North Philadelphia, close to Germantown, the center is a place where a cross section of Philadelphians can get healthier. Like the city itself, the center is racially diverse. According to Imms, it’s also very welcoming, something she says was very helpful when she was just getting started. “It’s diverse in age and ability and there’s able bodied people here and very not able bodied people who come here.”

This is also a neighborhood where a lot of residents can not afford to go to a gym. “We do provide scholarships, we want to make sure that everyone who is interested in coming and being a part of this center is able to come in the doors and participate.” Major Kevin Bone is the Administrator for The Salvation Army Kroc Center. The Krocs are the couple who donated 1.6 billion dollars to have The Salvation Army run these “super” community centers in underserved neighborhoods around the country.

Pat Imms and her birthday sign

“Ray and Joan Kroc are the founders of McDonalds,” he says, and this is perhaps as close to the fast food chain as many members get these days. As for Pat Imms, she plans on sticking with her exercise and eating schedule. In fact, she’s signed up for two triathlons later this year.

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