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Special Olympic Tennis Carnival

April 18, 2007 03:09 PM

On Friday, April 6th from 10 a.m. – 12 noon, Forestmeadows Tennis Complex in Tallahassee played host site to a Special Olympics Tennis Carnival presented by Greenberg Traurig.  The event was done in conjunction with the USTA Tallahassee Tennis Challenger, a professional men’s pro-circuit event.  All Special Olympian athletes in Leon County were invited to attend, and a remarkable 300 athletes, caregivers and teachers showed up for the fun.  Kelly Tucker, Community Events Chair for the Challenger, works with these kids all year organizing events for them to participate in. 

“I have been involved with the event for five years, and this is by far the biggest participation we have had,” she said.  

As tournament director for the Tallahassee Tennis Challenger, Karen Vogter oversees all the community events, and she generously volunteered and helped Kelly with the event.

“Kelly did an exceptional job organizing the event and getting the children to the site,” she said. 

Twenty-six volunteers, including USTA Pro Circuit player JP Fruttero, USTA Florida President Celia Rehm, USTA Florida Executive Director Doug Booth, and USTA Regional Director Karen MacFarland, got into the game by aiding the athletes in different tennis stations on the courts.  Many tennis supporters generously donated wonderful necessities for the day’s lively festivities.  The USTA Florida section office donated cool USTA t-shirts, which the kids’ absolutely loved and wore during the carnival.  The local Coca Cola distributor donated drinks for the participants and tasty pizza was provided for lunch.  The Tallahassee Tennis Challenger contributed balls for the carnival and purchased tennis racquets, which were then given to school tennis programs after the event.  Sometimes, the littlest gestures can make the biggest difference.

“There was a young boy who was blind,” said Vogter. “We helped him hit the ball with the racquet and each time he hit the ball and felt the vibration on his racquet, a huge smile spread all over his face.” 

After court time, the athletes wrapped up their day of tennis and watched tournament matches.

“Everyone who volunteered for the event came away so excited about the kids and how much they enjoyed playing tennis,” said Vogter, summing up the events of the day.  “It was truly amazing how much these kids enjoyed everything they did.”

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