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CTA Donates Money To Benefit Schools

May 27, 2008 08:15 PM

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The Collier County Community Tennis Association (CCCTA) opened its pockets to support the Collier County school system by purchasing $9,000 worth of Wilson tennis equipment for every public middle and elementary school in the county.  A total of 40 schools and thousands of children have benefited from their generous donation.  Through annual fundraising efforts by the CTA from the Saul Stern Fundraiser for Kids, proceeds this year came directly back to support the USTA School Tennis program in Collier County schools.

To be exact, 40 schools received per their individual needs, a combined 325 junior tennis racquets, 5,000 tennis balls, 60 mini nets, 1,140 foam balls, 396 low compression balls, two rolling equipment bags and six sets of throw down lines.  Getting a total of 40 elementary and middle schools to bring tennis to thousands of children is no easy feat, considering the nationwide decline of recreational opportunities for children and waning budgets towards physical education. 

“Forty schools having the proper equipment to run a tennis program is gigantic,” said Doug Browne, CCCTA president.  “The goal was to give the schools all the equipment they needed so there was no excuse to not teach tennis.”

Deb Ogden, Coordinator of Health and Physical Education for Collier County Schools, says there has always been a strong support of tennis in the county.  “When you can put enough equipment in the hands of all these children, it makes a huge difference,” she said.  “Having kids find activities they can do for a lifetime is the purpose of physical education - to get them healthy and active and have it become a part of their lives forever. 
 
“Tennis is one of these sports that is never going to leave our curriculum, no matter what adaptations we have to make.”   
 
USTA Florida has had a partnership with Collier County schools for years, but in 2007 it escalated to the next level.  USTA National Trainer Susan Allshouse joined USTA Florida Region 7 Community Coordinator Susie Bessire for a district-wide training of 90 PE teachers, representing 40 schools in Collier County.  The objective was to get PE teachers adequately trained to teach the USTA School Tennis curriculum and bring tennis to elementary and middle school children in a fun, interactive and easy way. 
 
From the training, every single schools joined the USTA as an organization member and received a basic tennis equipment package offered by USTA Florida, which included a curriculum kit, training paid for, 18 junior racquets and two dozen foam/low compression tennis balls.  One condition: all schools had to commit to teaching one unit of tennis during PE and offer another playing opportunity outside the classroom.

Ogden assured, “Teachers and students are thrilled with the equipment and they all teach a tennis unit throughout the year.”

In addition to the charitable help of the CCCTA who gathered its largest sum of money from the Stern Fundraiser with the help of altruistic Hideaway Beach Club members in Marco Island, the CTA now stands as a leader in giving back to its community in a big way. 

Browne believes that introducing tennis to children in school is crucial to growing the sport in the future.  “If you make sure that tennis is offered in PE on a regular basis, it is certain that some percentage of those children will go back home and say, ‘Mom, I want to do this.’”

Wilson Sporting Goods, the sole vendor used to order the equipment, recognized the significance of the CTA’s donation.  “Doug Browne, as an esteemed member of the Wilson advisory staff, we greatly appreciate his generosity and his contribution to the USTA Florida Schools Program in helping support tennis in PE classes in Collier County elementary and middle schools,” said Bob Pfaender, Wilson Territory Manager and USTA Florida Board Member.  “The equipment donation will go a long way to help promote the game for these in-school and after-school tennis programs.”

The Collier County Community Tennis Organization stepped up in a big way to ensure Collier County school PE teachers and children have enough equipment to teach, play and enjoy tennis to the fullest.

“It was made possible by a good partnership between Collier County schools, the CCCTA, Wilson and USTA Florida” said Bessire, who says cooperation by Ogden, PE teachers and Browne was indispensable.  “It would be great if more CTA’s could emulate the Collier County Community Tennis Association and give back to schools like Collier County,” said Bessire. 
 
“Everything was completely done through the help of a lot of incredible people and their belief in kids,” said Browne, highlighting his wife Leslie, assistant Tad Connerton, Bessire and the wonderful members of Hideaway Beach Club. “Hopefully from the lead that we have demonstrated over the years, maybe some other people will pick up the ball and do something similar.  We are a very small organization, but despite our smallness we have had a pretty powerful impact.”

The CTA plans to continue to support tennis locally just like they have for the past nine years when Browne became president. 

“As much support that we can get for PE in schools is important because that is where we can educate kids about tennis and expose them to the lifetime benefits of the sport,” said Ogden.  “The more opportunities we can all provide for students will help them live healthy actives lives!”

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