Special Olympics at the Tennis Club
Beaufort County High School and Middle School students celebrated completing an eight-week tennis skills program in a tradition called Color Day at the tennis facility here on Callawassie Island. Special Olympic tennis teams denoted by colorful tee-shirts placed clothes pins on the net to score success for their team with each skill they demonstrated. Though the scoring method might be charming, the point of the Special Olympics program is participation.
"We see students experience the cooperative success of these skills, and not just the competitive success," said Wayne Lilley, president of Public Tennis Inc. "The program includes just about every skill you can imagine. We encourage anything athletic, but try to do it in the context of tennis," Lilley said. "Every time you connect with somebody, especially if they have challenges, it’s exciting. We saw the impact of our Special Olympics high school tennis program, and we extended it this year to include middle schoolers too," Lilley said.
"Our volunteers turned out in almost a one-on-one ratio," said Callawassie Island volunteer coordinator Kate Prochnow. "They saw how much the students enjoyed the experience of practicing their skills, in a real tennis club environment, and on such a beautiful day."
"What I like about tennis is, I get to get outside and be active and meet new people," said Jackson, a Special Olympics participant. Another student went even further. "Tennis is the best game I ever played and I love it," Kirby said.
Special Olympics is one of several connections we make between Callawassie Island and the youth participation that is so important to the future of sport, and the healthy development of young people. As host to the Big East Golf Tournament each spring, Callawassie Island has made a real investment of effort in the future of golf, too.
"We were happy to be the hosts at Callawassie Island for Color Day this year," Kate said. "Seeing the fun, and the satisfaction on the faces of the students who took part with Special Olympics, was a treat that our volunteers will remember."
The school district offers the student tennis program through a partnership between SOAR, a Special Olympics recreation program based on Hilton Head Island, and Public Tennis Inc., a Beaufort County non-profit organization committed to making tennis accessible to more people.