Wichita's DeAnn White Honored with Diversity Award
Wichita’s DeAnn White was recently named the winner of USTA Missouri Valley’s Outstanding Diversity Achievement Award and will be honored at the section’s Annual Conference on December 4, 2021. White is the Executive Director of the Genesis Foundation for Fitness & Tennis (GFFT), a nonprofit organization founded in 2006 by Genesis Health Clubs with a goal of improving quality of life through physical activity.
One of GFFT’s goals is to introduce tennis to a diverse, underserved community. White relates to this goal on a very personal level, coming from a modest childhood where sports weren’t always available to her. She did, however, have loving parents who always instilled the importance of giving back to those less fortunate than themselves.
“Growing up in the post-depression era, my parents did not have a great deal and they taught us the importance of giving back and sharing with those less fortunate than ourselves,” White said. “It is very rewarding and heartwarming to see the small things we do impact so many people.”
It takes one look at her work with GFFT to see this mindset shining through in everything she does for underserved communities in Wichita. One program, called Kicks for Kids, works with under-resourced and diverse schools to offer tennis programming and lessons. Each kid that participates in this program receives a free pair of new tennis or athletic shoes. Each year, GFFT supplies more than 1,000 pairs of shoes through Kicks for Kids.
GFFT also offers three different types of youth tennis clinics, taught by Genesis instructors. All three programs are offered either for free or at low cost to kids and are taught at local schools, parks or Genesis locations in order to be more inclusive. White understands the need for more diversity in the game of tennis.
“I think tennis is a great sport that everyone, no matter their situation, can play and should have the opportunity to play,” White said. “We really need to find more occasions for children of all backgrounds to participate in physical fitness. Tennis is really the perfect sport.”
White and GFFT also make a point to work with other diverse local providers, such as the McAdams National Junior Tennis and Learning chapter and Wichita Adaptive Sports. This work has connected her to five time Paralympic medalist Nick Taylor, who also happens to be the Vice President of Wichita Adaptive Sports. He has seen firsthand just how impactful GFFT’s programming can be.
“The lessons mean so much to the kids as it gives them something to look forward to every week, and some of them have improved enough that we are getting ready to send them to a few tournaments next year,” Taylor said.
These are just a few of the numerous ways White and GFFT are working to grow tennis around Wichita, but it goes beyond just tennis. She wants to improve the lives of as many people as she can. USTA Kansas Board member Nick Schulte might have perfectly summed up White’s work around her community.
“To write everything that DeAnn means to and is doing for the Wichita community would be an endless task because she is constantly finding ways to do and offer more,” Schulte said. “Finding people with hearts as big of hers who are driven and talented enough to accomplish their goals can be a rarity and USTA Kansas feels fortunate to have such a gift of a person as DeAnn is to our district.”
Giving back and helping others is something that has been a major part of White’s life since she was a child. She’s just happy to have a platform that allows her to make such a difference to those around her and that’s what drives her every day.
“I always tell my children, at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is how you treat others,” White said. “I firmly believe that we should recognize and embrace diversity among us.”
If you would like to celebrate White and the rest of the 2021 USTA Missouri Valley award winners, please click here to sign up for the awards banquet.