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Jacksonville's Rehm Honored with USTA National Community Tennis Award

November 3, 2013 11:36 AM
Celia Rehm web.jpgJacksonville tennis volunteer Celia Rehm was honored for her years of community service when she was presented with one of the United States Tennis Association's (USTA) highest national honors, the Eve Kraft Community Service Award.

The award was presented on the night of Nov. 2, 2013, during the USTA Tennis Development Workshop, held Oct. 31-Nov. 3 in Denver, Colo.

The Eve Kraft USTA Community Service Award honors volunteer tennis leaders for significant contributions made to tennis development in their respective communities. Kraft was a teacher, coach, author, USTA staff member and volunteer, and a champion of recreational tennis until her death in 1999.

"I had the honor of meeting Eve Kraft at the first USTA Tennis Development Workshop I attended," Rehm told an audience of USTA volunteers and staff upon receiving the award. "I was new as a volunteer to USTA Florida, and you can just imagine what an inspirational experience that was for me. Because my passion is developing programs at the local level, I understood her message, and instantly I felt a connection that has stayed with me for so many years."

A past president of the United States Tennis Association-Florida Section (USTA Florida) and co-founder of the First Coast Tennis Foundation in Jacksonville, Rehm two years ago founded the Jax Youth Tennis Association (JYTA) when she saw a need for more junior play in partnership with the City of Jacksonville.

She negotiated with the City of Jacksonville and JaxParks to partner for the city's first-ever USTA Jr. Team Tennis league, with a focus on play using the 10 and Under Tennis format.

Jacksonville's first city-wide junior tennis league had a turn-out of 95 children, many of who had never played tennis before, and were introduced to the game via the child-scaled 10 and Under Tennis racquets, nets, court sizes and balls. A long-time Jacksonville resident, Rehm had seen the growth of Jr. Team Tennis in the private clubs in Jacksonville, but longed to create an outlet for children to play tennis at the public parks.

In 2011 Rehm again sprung into action in the late spring when Duval County Public Schools, which encompasses all of Jacksonville, announced they were cancelling their high school tennis programs county-wide due to budget cuts. Rehm and other area grassroots tennis organizers started an e-mail campaign to get tennis supporters to show up for a "Save Tennis" rally at the Duval County School Board building prior to the final board meeting before the vote. She also spearheaded efforts to work with the county sports administrator, and to organize efforts for a foundation to fund keeping high school tennis among Duval County sports. In the end tennis programs were retained for Jacksonville schools.

Among Rehm's other career tennis accolades are more than 13 years on the USTA Florida Board of Directors and in other positions; USTA Jacksonville district director from 1993-1997 when she was the recipient of both the USTA Florida and national awards for developing and managing the Jr. Team Tennis league; and recipient of the USTA Florida Female Merit Award for co-founding the First Coast Tennis Foundation, establishing the area as a USTA-funded market.

"I want to thank the USTA and USTA Florida for their support for so many years -- I've been around a long time," Rehm said with a laugh. "This would not have been possible without their support. I also want to thank my family, my daughters who are here today, for their encouragement, their love, and their understanding of my passion for tennis...There is nothing better than to see programs start, then flourish, for the enjoyment of people in the local community, particularly the kids."

For more information on the USTA Tennis Development Workshop and the Eve Kraft Community Service Award, go to www.usta.com/tennis_development_workshop.





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