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Boca Raton's Morris Named USTA Florida Feb. Tennis Volunteer of the Month

February 19, 2014 05:12 PM
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Matthew Morris saw just how many friends he had willing to help those less fortunate after he collected more than 100 used tennis racquets for special-needs players this winter. "Find Yourself in the Game," as the USTA slogan goes, and the 16 year old did just that while also discovering the joy of volunteering in tennis.

"My mother is an avid tennis player, as am I, and over the years we accumulated many of our own 'retired' racquets," said Morris, a junior at Saint Andrew's School in Boca Raton and a member of the tennis team. "In addition, I made an announcement at school and sent an e-mail to my mom's tennis team notifying everyone that I was collecting used racquets for Down Syndrome and special-needs children. The outpouring of donations was incredible. My original goal was 25 racquets and I quickly doubled that goal and ended up collecting 105 racquets. I am still collecting, and plan to donate again when I have acquired a sizable quantity."

Once the racquets were collected, Morris did some research on Florida tennis charitable organizations and chose Tennis for Fun in Brandon, Fla., an organization that provides free tennis clinics for athletes with special needs to learn basic skills and socialization. The all-volunteer organization serves athletes of all ages that are intellectually handicapped, especially those with Down Syndrome, but is inclusive of all special-needs athletes.

"I chose Tennis For Fun because of all the wonderful things that they do -- free clinics, all-grassroots volunteering, Special Olympics participation, and more," Morris said. "However what inspired me most was knowing that every new athlete gets to pick from the racquets I donated -- 'their' racquet. It is the racquet they will take home with them and use at Tennis For Fun clinics and all the tennis that they participate in."

Morris said attending a Tennis for Fun event was a life-changing experience.

"It was something out of this world," he said. "I never knew what it would be like to help out people such as those that I met. I had the opportunity to play singles with the top athletes, many of whom participate in Special Olympics here in Florida. Additionally, I participated in two afternoon clinics with several other athletes who were there to have fun and learn how to play tennis. It was amazing to see all of these people who were enjoying themselves playing tennis, not caring where the ball went, but as long as they were on the court playing it made no difference to them. I was so amazed by this. It gave me the greatest feeling of joy to just be out on the court with these kids and get to share with them what makes them so happy."

As the 2014 regional and state Special Olympics events approach, Morris says he will again volunteer with Tennis for Fun, and is again collecting racquets for program participants.

"For as much as I taught them on the tennis court, they taught me a lot too," he said. "It was as if I had known them for years. They were very welcoming to my mom and myself. In fact, one family sent us home with cookies and brownies. It was really awesome." For more information on Tennis for Fun programs in Brandon, Ft. Myers and Tampa, go to www.tennisforfun.org.

USTA Florida recognizes Matthew Morris as the February 2014 Volunteer of the Month for his efforts in supporting special-needs players and Special Olympics tennis in Florida.

ABOUT MATTHEW

Birthplace:
Chappaqua, N.Y.
Family: Amy Morris (mother) and Jessica Morris (sister)
Favorite Movie: This is the End
Favorite Food: Thanksgiving turkey
Favorite Travel: Boston, Mass.
Favorite Shot: Serve

My earliest tennis memory was..."playing tennis at the Saw-Mill Club in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., when I was 2 years old. I would play games with my coach, Norm, and no matter whether I won or lost the games we played, I would 'high five' him at the end."

If I could play tennis with three people, they would be..."John Isner, Juan Martin Del Potro, and Andy Roddick."

My best tennis memory is..."reaching my first finals in a tournament."

When I am not playing tennis I am..."studying hard as a student, hanging with my friends, or playing golf."

I like to volunteer in tennis because..."the joy I get out of seeing the faces of the people who I am helping is unbelievable."
 
 

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