Good News: Special Pops Tennis - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Good News: Special Pops Tennis

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

Special Pops Tennis goes far beyond any games, sets and matches and into the lives of the developmentally challenged adults in the program.

"It's not really about the tennis, it's about new friendships, it's about being part of a team,” said Mary Smith, program director for Special Pops. “Nobody has ever included this group of athletes on a team.”

"The essence of our program,” added Executive Director Ralph Ferrone, “is the joy that it brings to the lives of our athletes.”

On Saturdays in the fall and spring, dozens of special needs athletes gather at The Landings courts for tennis clinics that also serve up opportunities, invitations to socialize and form relationships that follow them off the court.

"I love tennis,” said Julius Mitchell, a participant in the program. “I like traveling, going places, meeting friends.”

And he gets to do all of that in the program presented by the Savannah Tennis Association and sponsored primarily by St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital.

“They normally don't get to do this,” Smith said of the participants, “Normally, their lives are sitting in front of a TV. A lot of them do work, but once they come home from work, their day is finished. So, it's a whole different lifestyle for our athletes because they learn to be part of a team, they're learning nutrition and health wellness skills.”

This Saturday, the program hosted the Adaptive Tennis Invitational, a tournament, but also a chance for similar programs from as far away as Raleigh, N.C. to see and learn what is being done so well here.

"This day to our athletes and the visiting athletes is like Christmas,” said Smith. “Nobody takes a whole day to share love, tennis and friendship like they are enjoying today. We're really changing their lives and the lives of their families.”

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