National

Eighth Grader Spreads Love of the Game

Beth Gibson | May 01, 2018


Eighth-grade tennis player Gianluca Audia from Hanover, N.H., helped spread the game of tennis through a noble cause. 

 

The Cardigan Mountain School student organized a “Swing Into Spring” tennis round-robin benefit that raised more than $8,000 for Buddy Up Tennis, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to provide tennis and fitness clinics for individuals with Down Syndrome. 

 

Additionally, Gianluca’s event served as the catalyst to bring Buddy Up Tennis and Buddy Up Fitness to the Upper Valley Region of New Hampshire and Vermont.  

 

This youngster became inspired while watching a wheelchair tennis match prior to the 2017 Australian Open between Paralympic Champion, Dylan Alcott, and tennis star, Novak Djokovic. Alcott dominated. Gianluca was moved to get everyone, regardless of ability, to enjoy the sport he loved. He  decided to find a way to help individuals who might not otherwise have a chance to play.  Through research, Gianluca discovered Buddy Up Tennis and decided to hold a fundraiser to support its adaptive tennis and fitness programs.  

 

On his own, he secured event sponsorships, in-kind donations and silent auction items. He then partnered with Liz Gray of Positive Tracks, a non-profit organization, and Andrew Gunberg, the River Valley Club’s Director of Tennis, to organize a tennis benefit clinic for 32 players.

 

The event was a huge success.  Everyone who participated had a blast, including Will Gibson, who was the inspiration for his mother to set up Buddy Up Tennis. Gianluca served as Will’s partner.

 

Beth Gibson, Founder and President of Buddy Up Tennis, was overwhelmed with the community support, “Gianluca is an example of what every athlete should be as he is a leader on the courts with his school tennis team as well as a leader off of the courts.  He is an extremely hard worker but also finds success by helping others. The world would be a better place if we all had the same passion.”

 

Coincidentally, in 2014, Beth met Pia Pearce and her son David at the National Down Syndrome Congress Convention. Both David, who has Down Syndrome, and Pia were very excited about the prospect of bringing Buddy Up Tennis to their local tennis club but feared that they lived in too remote of a location. A few years later, however, the stars aligned: the club where Audia plays tennis and held his benefit event is also where David works and exercises. As soon as Pearce and Gibson connected the dots, they figured out how to bring Buddy Up Tennis to the Upper Valley Region.

 

As a result, Buddy Up Tennis and the River Valley Club in Lebanon, N.H., will be launching Buddy Up Fitness, in June of 2018, and Buddy Up Tennis, in September 2018.  Both programs will be open to individuals with Down Syndrome and other special needs.

 

One 13-year-old was the driving force behind spreading the game of tennis to those who might not have had the opportunity to play.  Gianluca Audia’s selfless actions will spread his love of tennis to special needs individuals throughout the Upper Valley Region for many years to come, but the full impact of his generosity has yet to be seen.

 

- Published for the 2018 June Adapt It! Quarterly Newsletter

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