Ahead of US Open, Pro Players “Return the Love” to Child Center Campers

The Child Center of NY is the place to be if you’re a kid who’s into professional sports. Last summer, our Far Rockaway RBI little leaguers participated in Major League Baseball’s All-Star Youth Classic. This spring, they scored free tickets to Bat Day at Yankee Stadium. And yesterday, campers from our Latimer Community Cornerstone were invited to the US Open’s fourth annual Queens Day celebration at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

The Queens Day initiative is a combined effort of the USTA and players in “reaching out to” and “welcoming in” surrounding community organizations, both on and off the court. The day included performances by Queens-based artists, exhibitions featuring local businesses and cultural organizations, and various family activities.

It also included the Returning the Love Youth Tennis Clinic. Sixteen Child Center campers, along with youth from the Dominico-American Society of Queens and the Elmcor Youth & Adult Activities Community Center, got to meet, talk with, and play tennis with 2016 Rio Olympic Gold Medalist Monica Puig and winner of 23 Grand Slam titles Bob Bryan.

The day got off to a rocky start as the bus sent to take the campers to the stadium was over an hour late – and they ended up missing the first pro player, French tennis superstar Richard Gasquet.

Bob Bryan poses with our Latimer Cornerstone campers, Program Director Yinka Aiyelabowo, and staff.

But all the rockiness was forgotten when the kids arrived and were greeted graciously. Each camper had the opportunity to play tennis with Puig and Bryan, and they were treated to lessons from professional instructors, as well. They learned a lot about the fundamentals of tennis, a sport to which most of our young clients have never been exposed, and to the hard work and commitment that goes into excelling at it.

Various news outlets and assembly members were present, as was Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.

The kids also had about an hour of free time to watch ongoing matches and practices, and to explore Arthur Ashe stadium.

Instilling important life values – such as teamwork, perseverance, fitness, and sportsmanship — through sports and other activities is a central tenet of The Child Center. Yesterday’s event helped to drive those lessons home, as campers got to see firsthand that successful athletes were people who work hard, continue building their skills, and take time to give back to the larger community.

Of course, the most important thing to the campers was that they had fun. “I really enjoyed the day,” said 11-year-old Zoe. “I enjoyed playing tennis today, and what made it really special was that I got to meet tennis stars. They are tall.”

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