Kings County Tennis League for kids in public housing fundraises for court renovations
On a warm Saturday afternoon, 12-year-old Ashley Vazquez bounded across a cracked tennis court at Brooklyn’s Marcy Houses and, with a confident thwack, sent a ball flying over the chain-link fence serving as a net.
“I can have one bad week, none of that matters when I come to tennis,” Vazquez said. “I can put the frustration behind me.”
Vazquez is one of the stars at the Marcy Tennis Club, part of a nonprofit league that teaches about 120 kids the sport at four public housing projects in Brooklyn.
Founded by Bedford-Stuyvesant resident Michael McCasland in 2008, the Kings County Tennis League is trying to raise enough funds to renovate a court each at the Marcy and Sumner Houses.
“Given that there are a lot of complaints with the New York City Housing Authority and crime—the general level of the facilities—a shiny new court is something they can be proud of,” McCasland said.
McCasland said he doesn’t want to approach NYCHA or the Parks Department, which runs the Marcy court, until he can show them the money.
The endeavor is ambitious. The league has already raised about $5,000 to date, but needs roughly $25,000 for each court.
Still, McCasland is determined.
“If we want kids to open their world and try sports or activities they may not normally do, the facilities should really be up to par,” he said.
Learning something “different” is exactly why Brandon Otero, 14, joined the league. But after four years of dedicated tennis, he’s less critical than McCasland.
“It’s not about the court,” Otero said. “It’s about the player.”
Vazquez, who has only ever been at two courts, recalled playing on a recently renovated one at Fort Greene Park.
“It was bigger,” she shrugged.
Camille Motta, one of the league’s volunteer instructors, said renovations would send a positive message for the kids.
“It would be so nice for that to happen here,” she said, standing on the broken cement of the Marcy court.
“It’s funny—when I first saw that court, I said how amazing is it to live here, with a tennis court in your backyard,” McCasland said. “The flip side of public housing is they have so many people living all together, stuff isn’t in the best condition.”
Her first time taking a class at the Marcy Houses, 6-year-old Saturday Cookie Collins was handed a shiny tennis racket by a volunteer.
Dreadlocks bouncing, Collins ran over to her parents.
“Look!” she said, holding the racket out. “It’s mine!”
To donate to the league, visit their website.
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