Forty Love Tournament About More Than Tennis for Nguyen Family
Sean Nguyen’s father has been the main inspiration in his desire to help others. Tam Nguyen came to the United States in 1978 and after a time, found himself homeless. If not for a helping hand, the outcome could have been disastrous.
The freshman at the University of Missouri-Kansas City combines his love for tennis and helping others to raise money for the Uplift Organization. How? With Forty Love - a 501 ©(3) organization that runs tennis tournaments every summer. The tournament - which takes place this year on June 6 at Plaza Tennis Center, was the brainchild of Sean's. The tournament - in its fourth year - is a fun day of tennis and raising money to help a great cause.
“Through volunteering with my dad and my love of tennis I asked myself what was a unique way I could help bring attention to a cause I cared about and I came up with this,” Sean said.
Uplift Organization is a Kansas City program that drives all over the area to assist local homeless with food, water and other much-needed supplies. Uplift was founded in 1990 and relies solely on volunteers and donations.
Not only will the day be filled with tennis, but a silent auction, raffles and goodies from Raising Canes. But the best part surely comes from tennis and ensuring Uplift has a chance to do its part to help those struggling in Kansas City.
It’s a cause near and dear to Sean Nguyen’s heart - and for good reason.
Sean’s father taught him early that helping those less fortunate was a duty. But Sean never saw it that way - it’s something he wants to do. It’s manifested in his chosen field of study. He’s in a six-year program at UMKC where the first two years have him completing general education requirements and the remaining four go towards his medical studies.
Sean wants to spend his life helping others as a physician.
Tam escaped to the United States from political imprisonment during strife in Vietnam. That imprisonment saw Tam being tortured daily. He was nearly killed. When he arrived in the United States, he did not speak a word of English. Despite being nervous about the language barrier, he was relieved and excited to have escaped Vietnam and leave behind a reality that is unimaginable to most.
He was 18-years-old at the time and had no money, but was determined to make it in the United States. He found himself working two jobs to support family here - a sister and two brothers. The family came up with a plan: Tam would work to put the others through school and when the others completed school, Tam would go with their help.
That’s when things took a turn.
“They ended up getting married and starting their own families,” Tam said. “I ended up homeless and hungry. I had gone through a lot in Vietnam and this was scary. But you do what you have to do.”
He was able to get through it. He did end up going to school. But his career did not result from his schooling. It started by simply picking up a book. He bought a book about information technology and saved money to buy a computer. He found computer science easy. He’s now an IT Security Analyst for UMB Bank in Kansas City.
“I love economics, math and physics and when I was young in Vietnam I almost didn’t go to school,” Tam said. “I would cry all the time to let me stay home and give me books so I could learn by myself.”
Tam has passed on compassion and love for others onto Sean. When Sean was young, Tam would volunteer his time to the less fortunate and take Sean along. Tam’s wife was skeptical about forcing this on a child so young, but Tam knew teaching a child to be grateful for what they have was the right thing to do.
Sean is more than just grateful. He is passionate about giving back.
“My dad wouldn’t be here today without people here helping him,” he said. “Not only does it feel good to know that, it feels good to help other people and I was raised to know it’s the right thing to do. My dad sets such a great example for me and I feel like it’s easy to give back in this way.”
Tam tried to pass down another passion to Sean - but it simply wasn’t in the cards. Table tennis is a sport that is much more popular in Vietnam than the United States. Given that Tam loves all kinds of sports, he wanted his son to give it a shot. And Sean really took to it. One day, when Sean was about 9-years-old, he saw tennis on television and asked his father if he could play.
The pair went to the tennis courts at a local park and hit tennis balls together. That led to lessons for Sean. That resulted in no more table tennis. It took Sean about a year of tennis lessons to surpass Tam’s tennis prowess.
“He really loved it,” Tam said of tennis.
Sean grew into a force on the tennis court. At Blue Springs South High School, he was the team’s No. 1 player as a freshman. By his junior campaign, he represented the Jaguars in the state tournament.
Sean and his friend - Staley’s Mason Gates - also organized a tournament in place of the canceled MSHAA State Tournament last year. Despite rain early on, the tournament was a rousing success. Sean hopes his early tournament successes carry on with Forty Love.
Tam just hopes his son continues to remain passionate about helping others.
“Looking back, I almost cry,” Tam said. “I support whatever he does. As long as you know the value of life I am happy. He is thinking about a future where he can help someone.”
Cost to play the Forty Love Tournament is $20 and adult and junior divisions are available.