Florida CTA and UPARC... a perfect match

June 19, 2014 10:00 AM
Following months of research and meetings, UPARC launched its first tennis session in April, 2014.
UPARC’s mission is “To support and empower persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities."
The USTA Florida Foundation awarded UPARC an equipment grant and a program grant to help with initial costs.
By Judy Foster, special to USTA.com
UPARC, an organization in Clearwater, Florida whose mission is “To support and empower persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” was looking for tennis opportunities for its clients. Judy Foster, Executive Director of the Suncoast Tennis Foundation (STF), had always wanted to start an adaptive tennis program in that area. This partnership is a success story in the adaptive tennis world... a perfect match!
By wonderful coincidence, Foster was not only good friends with Brian Siracusa, UPARC’s Associate Executive Director, but she also was very familiar with UPARC, having volunteered for some of their programs.  Siracusa wanted “to offer Adaptive Tennis to encourage healthy lifestyles for our clients and create a fun atmosphere while promoting physical fitness.” Foster knew she and STF could make that happen.
After their first meeting, a partnership was formed, and then the networking began. Foster approached the City of Clearwater Parks and Rec Department to present the proposed program, and that resulted in a donation of two tennis courts. UPARC hired the services of a Dawn Lewellyn, a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, to teach the program and train staff and volunteers.
To finance the program, UPARC applied for two grants from the USTA Florida Foundation for equipment (10-and-under racquets and balls) as well as a program grant to pay the professional instructor. Upon the awarding of these grants, BJ Bishop, President of the USTA FL Foundation, said, “This is an important issue to the Foundation and we are so pleased that organizations across Florida are bringing the game to special needs populations.  We will continue to work to make funds available to these special programs.”
In less than three months, the first 16 participants were on court with Lewellyn and her volunteers. At that end of Week One, there were 30. The first session ran for eight weeks and 40 participants were awarded certificates. Both the participants and the UPASRC staff made tremendous strides in their skills. Another longer session is scheduled for this September through mid-December, and UPARC plans to offer the Adaptive Tennis program to a number of their satellite sites in the fall.
“The Adaptive Tennis program is a part of our CTA’s mission,” said Foster, “and we have plans to offer the program to an expanded public in the near future.”
It looks like the successful union is getting ready to produce progeny!

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