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Tampa Teen Conducts Tennis Camp for Athletes with Special Needs

August 8, 2013 04:51 PM

USTA member, competitive junior puts USTA Florida grant dollars to work in giving back, partnering with Tennis for Fun adaptive organization

by Rick Vach, USTA Florida
Paige Leavy
"I was taken aback that she was so enthusiastic about putting on a camp for people in the disabled community. That's what really got me."
This time of year the majority of Florida high school-age junior competitive tennis players are busy chasing ranking points or lining-up college opportunities, but Paige Leavy of Tampa had an additional goal this summer.
The rising sophomore at the Tampa Preparatory School in July organized and taught a free adaptive tennis camp for special-needs adults and children at the Harbour Island Athletic Club in Tampa, Fla.
"I am really blessed and fortunate to be able to be a competitive tennis player, and I feel a lot of joy when I can see these special athletes perform in the way I know they all can when they are given the opportunity," said Leavy, a top player in the Tampa area.
Travis Leigh, quoted at the beginning of the article, is an ambulatory physically-challenged athlete who had nevertheless failed to pick up a tennis racquet in his five years working the desk at the athletic club's pro shop.
"I was walking out of the club to my car and she stopped me in the parking lot and asked me if I ever wanted to try tennis, because she was trying to set up a camp for people with disabilities," Leigh said. "I was really taken aback by that, because no one in the five years that I have been here had really asked me to do anything like that."
A sled hockey (hockey's version of wheelchair tennis) player, Leigh says adaptive athletes need more opportunities like those provided through grants from USTA Florida and the USTA national body.
"It's just nice to be able to come in and see what USTA does for disabled athletes," Leigh said. "It seems like USA Hockey is doing the same thing, a lot of promotion within the Paralympic Games, and Special Olympics promotion going on."
Leavy organized the camp through Tennis for Fun, which is based in Tampa and Brandon, Fla., and serves adaptive players. Tennis for Fun was founded in 2000 by then-high-school student Nathan Moore, and is carried on by his mother Judy Moore.
"It's very exciting to have high schoolers who are interested in tennis to give of themselves and share with others their love for the game of tennis," Judy Moore said. "Paige heard about the Tennis For Fun program and contacted me to see if she could get involved this summer. The idea for the three-day summer camp was hers. Our program is run entirely by volunteers and all our clinics and camps are free. We'd love to have more high schoolers get involved with our program."
Leavy said the memories she took away from the camp make it something she would like to do again, hosting approximately 30 children and a handful of adult players.
"Some of the athletes that have never played before were saying they didn't want the camp to end, and they wanted to come back to play more," Leavy said. "One of the athletes called me her new best friend. There were also two twin boys that attended who compete in Special Olympics, and they said that they not only got to have fun while playing tennis, but they were also happy to be doing something with their friends."
Over the past three years, USTA Florida and the USTA Florida Section Foundation have contributed more than $27,000 in grants to organizations that offer a variety of adaptive tennis and wheelchair tennis programs for children and adults in Florida communities.
"USTA Florida continues to see an increasing interest across the state in developing adaptive tennis and wheelchair tennis programming," said USTA Florida Director of Community Tennis Linda Curtis. "We are thrilled to support these wonderful programs with grants, visibility, and staff support."
Other USTA Florida-supported programs in addition to Tennis for Fun include Lee County Special Olympics Tennis (Fort Myers), Miami-Dade Parks Tamiami Junior Wheelchair Tennis (Miami), the Special Olympics Tennis Program (Miami), Wheelchair Tennis (Miami), Adaptive Tennis (Palm Bay), Fun in the Sun; Play on the Clay Wheelchair Tennis (Plantation), and Cyprus Bay High School ESE (Weston).
"We strongly encourage registration of programs so that tennis players can connect with programming in their communities," Curtis said.
Adaptive Tennis programs can register with the USTA national body at www.usta.com/Adult-Tennis/Adaptive-Tennis/Adaptive.
For more information on USTA Florida Adaptive Tennis programming or grants, contact Linda Curtis at curtisl@florida.usta.com.





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