USTA New England Helps Fund
CT Adaptive Sports Camp
James Maimonis, Communications and Engagement Coordinator | September 7, 2018
BERLIN, CT- For one week in August every year, a select group of young athletes get the opportunity to thrive in an environment unlike any they have experienced before. As part of the Adaptive Sports Program at the Hospital for Special Care (HSC) in New Britain, CT, children ages 6-19 living with physical disabilities are invited to attend the Ivan Lendl Adaptive Sports Camp at no cost to them or their families.
“Seeing the excitement on their faces every year reassures us that we are positively impacting people’s lives. We had kids come from 34 towns this year, some from even as far as Buffalo, NY, so that truly speaks to the need for programs like this,” said Janet Connolly, Adaptive Sports & Community Program Manager.
The camp is the only one of its kind in New England and offers a wide range of sports, beginning with tennis, and including swimming, track and field, basketball and hand cycling. ADVERTISEMENT More importantly however, it gives the kids an opportunity to compete, interact and relate with people who have had similar life experiences.
“I think this is a great place to make friends, learn new things and have a great time with people who might have the same disability as you,” said 11-year-old camper Sarah Reid.
Karin Korb, former pro tennis player and Paralympic athlete, makes the trip to Connecticut from Alabama every year to coach at the camp.
“Children and adults with disabilities are often looked upon as charity or with pity; that is not this camp. Because we have staff and coaches that live the experience of being disabled, we have high expectations of our participants,” Korb said. “We know that a positive experience at this camp translates into life successes because we see our children as competent and capable, therefore changing the narrative of how the rest of the world sees and treats them.”
The camp has more than 40 volunteers, coaches and staff members who go above the call of duty to ensure every kid has a unique and memorable experience.
The plan for another seamless year of camp was put in jeopardy this summer however, as a budget cut and forced relocation entered the picture. The annual Ivan Lendl Golf Classic serves as the primary benefactor for the camp, but a 50% reduction in the Adaptive Sports Budget spread the remainder of the camp’s resources extremely thin. In addition, the official site of the camp since 1990, the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, underwent renovations to its athletic facilities.
Facing the fear that the camp could be forced to take a year hiatus, Connolly and Korb reached out to the USTA for support. Without hesitation, both USTA New England and USTA Connecticut joined in on the efforts and offered financial support.
“USTANE and USTA CT graciously came on board with grant funds, not just to move, but to feed kids lunches and for other important resources,” Connolly said. “The funds were put to a great use, and it truly helped us meet the needs of the kids in a manner we’re accustomed to and not the bare bones minimum. For that, we’re very appreciative.”
“We wanted to minimize the impact from the loss of funding they had, so we thought it was only right to step up. We’re proud to support such a great organization like the HSC Adaptive Sports Program, and we’re excited to continue exploring more avenues to help increase their efforts,” said USTA New England Executive Director and COO, Matt Olson.
Thanks to the combined efforts of countless determined individuals, the camp ran successfully from August 6-10 at its temporary home at Berlin High School in Berlin, CT.
The kids were joined by special guest mid-week, as Ivan Lendl, made an appearance to hit with and speak to them.
“It’s wonderful Ivan makes an appearance every year. He said that seeing these kids together, accepting and doing things for one another, is a true representation of what inclusion is,” Connolly said. “For the more serious tennis players, he acknowledged their abilities and skills, which is so important for them to get that recognition and validation. He told them to have hopes and dreams, and to stick with it and to become a Paralympian if they so desire.”
The one-week camp is currently the only tennis opportunity the Adaptive Sports Program currently offers throughout the year, however with the success of the program and growing interest in tennis, Connolly hopes to ramp up the efforts.
“I know there would be more people playing tennis if we could offer it year round. Thirty-five out of the 40 kids this summer said that tennis was one of their favorite activities to do at camp,” Connolly said. “We need a community partner and a few more folks to volunteer, and hopefully we can get these kids playing more tennis.”
For more information on the Hospital for Special Care’s Adaptive Sports Program or to get involved in their programming, visit their website.