Eleven years ago, San Diego community tennis leaders Geoff Griffin, Mary Alice Hillier and I met at Balboa Tennis Club and pondered what the tennis community could do to support injured service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. That initial brainstorming session led us to consult with Naval Medical Center San Diego and shortly thereafter, our Wounded Warrior Tennis Program was born.
What started as monthly tennis clinics for a handful of military hospital patients quickly grew into a full-fledged year-round operation involving dozens of volunteers, tennis pros, and sponsors serving an ever-widening population of wounded, ill, and injured active duty members and veterans of all ages, service branches, ranks, and disabilities. The popular tennis clinics accelerated into full-capacity weekly events and we started holding annual, week-long tennis camps for hundreds of Wounded Warriors from across the country – all at no cost to the participants.
As our efforts grew, so did our reputation, leading to national-level recognition from the Department of Defense, members of Congress, the U.S. Tennis Association, tennis industry, and the news media. We became the “go-to” experts on adaptive tennis programs as a means of rehabilitation and community reintegration for disabled military members and their families, and we helped like-minded tennis enthusiasts start similar programs in Maryland, New York, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, and California to name a few.
We are proud to have helped over 1000 wounded, ill, and injured service members from across the country improve the quality of their lives, and in some cases, save their lives, all through the magic and joy of having fun on the tennis courts and demonstrating a sincere interest in their welfare. We are grateful for all the financial and in-kind support we have received from across the San Diego tennis and business communities that has helped us build, grow, and sustain our programs, and we are honored to partner with the San Diego Veterans Tennis Classic to continue “returning the serve” of those who have served.
More information about the San Diego Wounded Warrior Tennis Program is at www.sdwoundedwarriortennis.org.
Written by: Steve Kappes