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Katrina victim finds her “connection” to tennis

February 28, 2006 01:48 PM

Mary Leach does not know if she will ever leave The Villages and return to her “home” in Bay St. Louis, MS.  Struck by Hurricane Katrina, Mary’s house was left under 12 feet of water and mud, and she and her family recovered only five or six items from the aftermath; one of those items was a tennis racquet.

Mary and more than 100 residents of The Villages, (a retirement community,) assembled at the Chatham Recreation Center on site Saturday, Feb. 25 for a USTA Florida Welcome Back to Tennis event.

The event was made possible by Chatham Recreation Director Terry Wilson, USTA Florida Community Coordinators Susie Bessire and Matt Graham, USTA national trainer Susan Allshouse, and a small group of wonderful volunteers.

Community Coordinator Matt Graham was delighted with the turnout, and he thinks The Villages was a perfect place to host a Welcome Back to Tennis event.

“This was my first major event as a Community Coordinator,” Graham said.  “I was able to experience first-hand how events like these affect the participants.  The positive feedback is rewarding.”

As for Mary, six months ago was when she first got the devastating news that her home in Mississippi was destroyed.  When her son was finally able to rummage through what little remained, he found something that Mary now holds close to her heart.

“It was one of about five or six items that was recovered,” Mary said.  “My Wilson tennis racquet is now a connection to my home in Mississippi.”

After the recovery of the racquet, Mary feels almost obligated to use it.  She is looking forward to getting back in to something that had made its way down her priority list. 

She does not know how long she will be living in The Villages, or if she will ever move back to Bay St. Louis.  Wherever she is, the racquet will be with her – a reminder for all of us how precious and unpredictable life is.






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