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Dream Court Creates Sweet Memories in Uncertain Times
Jessica Wyreuter, the founder and executive director of Dream Court, an adaptive program for athletes with intellectual and physical disabilities, was faced with a cut-short spring session and the cancellation of the summer session. Therefore, she had to dig deep into her creative talents to come up with replacements suitable for as many as 50 athletes.
The ultimate goal was for the athletes to have fun and stay in touch with their old tennis friends and make new ones. Included were ways to keep them moving, interested in the sport of tennis, and socially engaged. And of course, this all had to be done “virtually.”
First up was a parade. This was early in quarantine times when no one was getting out much. Initial contact was made by personal phone calls. Volunteers were invited to stand in the road along a designated course, holding signs made by high school students. Athletes, along with their families, drove by in cars as the volunteers cheered and acknowledged each of them. Some had so much fun that they drove by twice! Afterwards there was ice cream for all!
An even more ambitious effort followed with a week-long Virtual Tennis Camp. It attracted not only the regular participants from Montgomery, Alabama, but athletes connected to Abilities Tennis in North Carolina joined in, including one from Boston and another from Florida. Most days all 36 participated. Since there were two deaf children in the mix, lessons in sign language for all were added, and the sessions were presented in sign as well.
Each morning each participant received a seven-minute video welcoming them and featuring what would be on the Zoom camp agenda that evening. The program utilized seven coaches, a combination of tennis pros, adult league players and high school players. One of the days, instead of using Zoom, each participant received a personal phone call and a one-on-one lesson via Facetime.
All formats received rave reviews from parents, athletes and volunteers.
“As a coach and volunteer, not only was it awesome to see the entire Dream Court community come together virtually for fun activities, such as scavenger hunts, sign language, and dancing," Katie Richard said, "it was also a great opportunity to see athletes at varying levels develop and/or improve core tennis skills that they can use once they are able to get back on the courts."
Parent Michelle Daley of Boston, Mass., added: “Justin has enjoyed Dream Court’s virtual tennis camp. He especially liked the one-on-one call with his buddy Jackson. This has been a great opportunity to meet some new people in the adaptive tennis community!”
Wyreuter hopes to have the athletes back on-court for the fall session. Until then, they have been living the dream, thanks to the creative efforts of Dream Court.
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