Writing to give you an update.
Every now and then I see something that blows me away and I am led to try and show you what a major impact your support has on these children.
I could not even greet them, the emotion was too great. I cried to myself and enjoyed the incredible moment - Seeing all of the VT Marty Hennessy foundation alumni out on the tennis court, each in their full college uniforms, coming out to help the younger ones over their college holiday break. Here they were passing on the tradition to the next generation of children. I did not even have to ask them to do it. They wanted to be leaders. It is now part of their tradition.
In past years alumni would come home for holiday break, I would call them and pass on the vision Adam Carey had given to me years earlier; that alumni should come back, give back by mentoring, coaching and leading the next generation.
Trent, Ryan and Frideric would do it, sometimes reluctantly. Eventually they complied almost every time. Then as the next generation rose and went off to college, they saw this tradition as a badge of honor. Now it was their turn to do for others what Frideric, Ryan and Trent had done for them.
Edgardo Ureta would show up to practice every day when on break freshman year. He took it to another level taking the children to lunch, dinner, spending significant time with them. He later shocked us all with a business plan and idea to intern during the Summer of his Freshman year "to give back to the foundation that helped me so much."
Patrick Kawka, now at BYU, recalled how the annual NateSchulman trip to Palm Springs years ago changed his perspective on life, tennis and who he was. It was during one of our fire side chats with all the children. Patrick was 15. We often ask the children provocative questions, showing them how to express themselves, speak in front of a crowd and get to know one another. We never know what they will say and it often has a big impact on themselves and others.
Such was the case when Frideric and Trent talked about what the foundation did for them, how the children should listen to us and how it would get them a scholarship to college. Patrick later explained how that one talk changed how he approached his life. "All of a sudden I saw I could be like Friderik and Trent one day, giving that talk. That could be me."
At that moment all the leadership talks started to make sense, he explained, where before it hadn't. "I wanted to be that person coming back telling my story, but I needed a story to tell and that motivated me. Everything changed after that."
The change Patrick is referring to is a new found love for tennis and a higher purpose. He saw himself as a developing leader and went out of his way to act like one. According to him he went from someone who "went through the motions" to someone who "now had purpose and meaning in my life. I had no direction, and now I have one, to be a leader!"
Patrick went on to become one of the foundations best captains ever.
"His senior year in high school Patrick showed up and coached every night as a volunteer and was amazing," said his coach Tim Blenkiron. "I was excited to hear he was buying into the leadership message we had been preaching for years. It was inspiring."
Now it was Patrick's turn to come back from his freshman year at college to mentor, coach and show up in his full uniform. He was the leader now passing on the tradition. Needless to say Patrick showed up every morning this past week from 8am to noon, took youth to lunch, then returned every single night from 430pm to 7pm to help the younger children. He was a rock star.
Close to 30 foundation children have earned scholarships to college for tennis and academics in the last 5 years. It is moving to see them come back in appreciation and be leaders and mentors to the next generation.
"This could stand to be our greatest achievement," said Marty Hennessy. "Mentoring children to be mentors, in all areas of life, including tennis."
We have not only armed them with tools for life, great tennis and life changing opportunities, but passed on the power of leadership, living by example and the pleasure of passing that down to others.
When you see these children come back home young men and women, complete with such confidence, stature, and appreciation it blows your mind away. Dillon Berkabile's mother put it perfectly, "We are beyond proud."
Dillon came home after his first semester at the Citadel. He was so calm, strong and confident looking. His progress as a person blows my mind.
You could see how excited the younger children were too to see the alumni, their teammates, to play with and be like them.
Daily the alumni played soccer, hung out with the children and made a point to make most of the practices. It became a leadership competition, who could be at more practices, this is the positive peer pressure we always hoped for. They wanted to be leaders, this after years of trying to get them to be.
The daily team trips to Jamba Juice and Whole Foods cemented the messages we ingrained in the older ones, eat healthy, be a team, lead, mentor, be kind. I remember having to force them years ago to even try smoothies and Whole Foods. Now they beg for it. I recall having to beg them to come back and be leaders. Now they compete to give back the most.
Edgardo Ureta came in Friday night late and made a point to come out 8am Saturday morning even though academy is not on Saturdays. He brought a teammate from his college team, he wanted to show him our tradition, he was proud. He spent time there all day hitting with the children.
You can see the children connecting the dots,...
" If Edgardo can do it so can I! "
" I want a college scholarship like Patrick. "
" I want to be like Dillon. "
Sarah Lucas was in the pro shop talking to the 12 year old girls, they treated her like a star. Sarah is thriving in her freshman year on $60,000 annual scholarship at Seattle University.
When I asked some of the children during one of our fire side chats who is their hero and why, one young girl said "Sarah Lucas." This is the same 12 year old Sarah was talking to hours earlier in the pro shop. These children don't forget. They remember kindness, they appreciate leadership even though they can not even describe it.
Another child said "Patrick Kawka." I am shocked how these younger children even know Patrick, but he goes out of his way to make them feel special. He hits with them, comes to volunteer coach and just says "hi."
Tanner Berkabile, Dillon's younger brother, broke into tears on the recent Tomchin Family West Coast Leadership Tour saying his older brother Dillon is his hero, how he has always looked out for him and been his best supporter. Kristofer Yee talked about how much his parents have sacrificed for him and helped him. Danae said one of the foundation coaches (James) "has been like a second father to me."
Watching Marty Hennessy, Hilliary Heard, Tim Blenkiron and Adam Carey's vision for these children unfold is the most satisfying experience of my life. Although I no longer run the foundation on a day to day basis it is my most cherished hobby, seeing these children become young leaders, giving back to the foundation that has done so much for them. It's like the circle of life and everyone benefits. There is no greater experience.
I am especially proud of the captains or "Seniors" who had to work so hard as interns and leaders of our team: Frideric Prandecki, Trent Alenik, Edgardo Ureta and Dillon Berkabile. I am also grateful to Marty Hennessy, Tony Bennett, Mike Agassi, Tim Blenkiron and Adam Carey who started this quest with me 8 years ago. They always believed in what we were doing and did it with me every step of the way. Most of all I appreciate the parents who do so much work to raise their children and get so little credit. The driving, resources, support and so much more are so often not recognized. They do all the hard work so we can enjoy the fun work!
That being said none of college scholarships and success stories would be possible without the generosity and support of the countless supporters and donors of VegasTennis.com's Marty Hennessy Jr. Tennis Foundation.
Each generation makes the success of the next possible and I am so very proud of their kindness, compassion and leadership. They are a living, breathing testament to what this foundation is about. To date close to 30 children have gotten scholarships to college thanks to VegasTennis.com's Marty Hennessy Jr. Tennis Foundation and support from the NO QUIT Tennis Academy. 4 of them have gone on through our internship program to be honored with the moniker "Senior." Four of these children will graduate from college this year.
All of this is made possible by foundation supporters and donors like you.
You have made our work real, you have made our accomplishments possible.