When I walked into the Packing Party, there were assembly lines going — efficient and determined. A tennis team captain from Sunset Ridge was working with a couple of other captains from the Cary Tennis Park to remove 200 tubes of ChapStick from its packaging so it would more efficiently fit into the shipping box. Donna Gast, president of the Western Wake Tennis Association, was working with another group to address the customs declaration forms needed for each box being shipped to Afghanistan. Another group led by Pam Ray from Prestonwood Country Club was sorting lotion from shampoo, and yet another from Lochmere was taping boxes and slapping on address labels.
The mission: to send care packages to soldiers as a token of appreciation and support from a grateful nation, and to introduce the soldier to a recreational means for reintegrating with family, friends and community in a lifelong sport upon their return from deployment.
The call went out for 12 tennis teams to participate in the pilot program. Cost was about $10 or less per team member, providing 100 of 10 different items to be shipped to a unit of 100 soldiers in Afghanistan. The unit supported by the WWTA is stationed out of Ft. Bragg, and is now in a remote area of Afghanistan. Without running water, items like hand sanitizer, baby wipes and an extra pair of socks are considered “gold.” Each item was purchased in travel or personal sizes so they’re easy to carry in the soldiers’ 60-pound rucksacks.
The United States Tennis Association has embarked on a major push to support military families, wounded warriors and deployed soldiers. Plans are underway for a Military Appreciation Day during the US Open, the largest annual sporting event in the world held each August/September in New York. The WWTA was selected by the USTA to hold the first pilot in hopes that it will be rolled out nationwide later this year to the more than 1,100 Community Tennis Associations across the U.S. It is fitting that a North Carolina tennis community was chosen to begin the pilot, as N.C. is home to so many military installations. For more information, visit www.usta.com.
To send care packages to soldiers as a token of appreciation and support from a grateful nation, and to introduce the soldier to a recreational means for reintegrating with family, friends and community in a lifelong sport upon their return from deployment.