"This program really made a difference in my life." - Christopher Rodriguez
By Valerie Victor
The City Parks Foundation put the goal of raising funds for the free youth instructional program CityParks Tennis front and center at its 18th annual Tennis Benefit at the US Open Tennis Championships last week.
“We’re providing free equipment and free lessons to kids who may not have access to things like that, and whether or not they become ranked tennis players is not what we’re interested in” said Heather Lubov, City Parks Foundation Executive Director.
According to Lubov, the foundation’s goal was to raise $250,000 by the night’s end. However, the Tennis Benefit topped that projected figure, raising $255,000.
Funds raised for the City Parks Foundation are used to serve over 6,000 children in parks throughout New York City every season. The foundation is one of the largest municipal tennis programs in the country, providing services in over 36 parks across all five boroughs to kids from six to 16. The foundation also runs a training academy.
In addition to raising funds, the event honored a series of guests including Steve Owens, head pro at the Pleasantville Tennis Club; Todd Martin, International Tennis Hall of Fame CEO; and Christopher Rodriguez, a CityParks Tennis youth player from Jackson Heights.
Rodriguez, 16, was presented with the Billie Jean King Junior Award. Accepting his award, he spoke about his great appreciation for CityParks Tennis, his personal struggles and his mother’s health battles.
“I don’t know where I would be without this program,” said Rodriguez. After being honored for his hard work, he was given an all-expense-paid trip, including full airfare from Delta Airlines, to Florida to attend tennis camp.
The City Parks mission is to do for many children what they were able to do for Rodriguez. “What we want is to just have kids develop a love for tennis, grow their self-esteem and really feel special,” Lubov said.