2014 a year to remember for the USTA Foundation

January 1, 2015 02:18 PM

By E.J. Crawford, USTAFoundation.com

2014 was a year of change and achievement for the USTA Foundation, of giving back and serving up dreams for thousands of under-resourced people and communities nationwide.

The biggest change in 2014 was the name, as USTA Serves became the USTA Foundation, expanding to embrace the National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) network, Military Heroes and Individuals With Disabilities (through Adaptive Tennis). The increase in scope gave the Foundation the power to effect positive change in more places – and to impact more people – than ever before. 

“The USTA Foundation is all about serving up dreams and changing lives,” said outgoing USTA Foundation Chairwoman Mary Carillo. “And we now have the opportunity to do that on an unprecedented scale.”

The name change became official in July, with the Foundation celebrating by ringing the opening bell at NASDAQ, an event that was broadcast live to several national TV morning shows. What did not change, however, was the Foundation’s goal of utilizing tennis and education to make a difference – a longtime mission and guiding principle that in 2014 earned the USTA Foundation a four-star rating from Charity Navigator. 

In terms of giving, it was quite a year indeed. Overall, the USTA Foundation awarded $2.3 million in grants and scholarships to support those in need. To date, the Foundation has now awarded more than $19 million in grants and scholarships to hundreds of programs, benefitting thousands of children and adults through tennis, education and health curricula.

One of those beneficiaries is Charlee Goodman, a Milwaukee Tennis and Education Foundation who earned scholarship money through NJTL student-athlete competitions. She is now pursuing her degree at McKendree University, where she plays on the tennis team.

“I had no idea that tennis could open up doors for me, at least in that way,” Goodman said. “I started to put money away for college starting in eighth grade. Looking back, you just feel so grateful, because not everyone gets to go to college.”

Tennis and education are the guiding principles behind the NJTL network, which led the Foundation’s youth focus in 2014. A partnership with Coca-Cola helped fund 10 NJTL chapters that utilize the Academic Creative Excellence (A.C.E.) Curriculum to improve kids’ attitudes and behaviors about math, literacy and school climate. And the Foundation also formed an alliance with longtime US Open sponsor JPMorgan Chase to award 10 NJTL programs with $10,000 each to go toward tennis and education programming.

The biggest names in the game also came out to give youth an assist. In conjunction with the 2014 World Tennis Day, the Foundation took in $100,000 at a fundraising reception held in March at the Essex House Hotel in New York. The money raised at the event went to support the funding of scholarships and programming grants to under-resourced youth at four New York metro NJTL chapters, with tennis stars Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Bob and Mike Bryan all attending in support of the Foundation.

Some of NJTL’s shining stars earned another date with the best in tennis at the 2014 US Open. The 10 winners, out of 2,600 entries, of the 16th Annual NJTL Arthur Ashe Essay Contest received a New York City travel package. The culmination of the trip was the winners, ages 10 to 18, being honored at Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day, held prior to the start of the Open.

“The [NJTL] program not only teaches tennis, but also includes an open dialogue that teaches real life lessons,” said Sugam Langer, a lawyer and graduate of the 15-Love NJTL chapter in Albany, N.Y., who ran in the New York City Marathon to support the Foundation. “The [teachers at 15-Love] are not just there to teach tennis; they teach everything from good manners to money management to recycling.”

Partnerships were an important part of the Foundation’s work in 2014, extending beyond youth and into its work with military veterans, service members and their families as well as individuals with disabilities. To that end, last year the Foundation teamed with Johnson & Johnson and its Veteran Leadership Council to host six free Warrior and Family Tennis Day events in the spring and summer in New York and Philadelphia, bringing tennis to hundreds of military heroes.

In addition, the Foundation hosted four regional wheelchair tennis camps – in Atlanta, San Antonio, San Diego and Seattle – through a $115,000 grant from the United States Olympic Committee as part of the U.S. Paralympic Integrated Adaptive Sports Program. And in August, the Foundation utilized the world’s grandest tennis stage, the US Open, to organize the US Open’s 3rd Annual Military Appreciation Day, which included hosting 12 wounded warriors for a day of tennis, distributing tickets to military families and posthumously honoring 1943 US Open Champion Lt. Joe Hunt in Arthur Ashe Stadium, with members of his family in attendance. 

To wrap up the year, the Foundation signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to partner and distribute the USTA Foundation Warrior Tennis Curriculum across the country.

“I really appreciate these events that show gratitude toward the military,” Sgt. Sharon Rimal, a Queens resident and a full-time member of the U.S. Army National Guard, said during the event at the US Open. “Tennis can bring back normalcy to people’s lives. Regaining the ability to get back on the court and to start healing, it’s more powerful than anything.”

The US Open also served as one of the Foundation’s great fundraising opportunities. In fact, more than $1 million was raised during the 2014 US Open through events and activities such as 14th Annual Opening Night Gala and the annual Pro-Am. 

With a year of tremendous successes behind it, the USTA Foundation now turns its attention to 2015, where it will attempt to build on what it has accomplished and to do what it has always strived to achieve – support those in need, utilizing the combination of tennis and education to serve up dreams and make a difference.

“Together, we can give everyone a chance to achieve, succeed and thrive – in short, to help those in need realize their dreams,” Carillo said. “And there is no greater goal than that.”




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