LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. — They're rivals on the court, but high school tennis stars Mika Ikemori, Eliana Hanna, and Sarah MacCallum are all from different Southern California high schools and used to matching up against each other.
But when the pandemic hit and sidelined high school sports, the girls decided to fill their time helping less fortunate kids, who wanted to play tennis but had no gear.
They teamed up, collecting shoes, racquets, tennis balls, and clothing for an organization called Second Serve, which donates used tennis equipment to communities in need around the world.
Ikemori, who plays high school tennis at Marina, is in charge of getting the word out for the organization by spreading awareness on social media.
“It’s been amazing. I mean, we all love tennis so much. It’s been such a big part of our lives, and to help people get to feel what we feel on the tennis court is so rewarding,” Ikemori said.
The organization is a youth-led nonprofit with 31 young leaders between the ages of 12 and 17. It was founded by sisters Amani and Ayanna Shah in February 2019.
Locally, the girls placed donation boxes at two Orange County clubs—one of them at Laguna Niguel Racquet Club.
So far, Second Serve has donated nearly 8,000 items to eight different countries.
Hanna plays for La Cañada High School and is the head of events and fundraising for the organization.
“To just give them a racquet and see the smile on their faces is so amazing. To just be able to see how much joy it provides them just to be able to have a racquet and a ball,” Hanna said.
The three girls have been playing against each other since they were just 10 years old, and all three are committed to earning scholarships.
But serving this nonprofit has given them a new appreciation for having these opportunities.
MacCallum works alongside Hanna in events and fundraising and has led the way for the girls in getting access to local tennis clubs.
“Just the fact that kids all around the world are able to play tennis, make the relationships through tennis, and really just get out there and do something fun like that is just amazing,” MacCallum said.
As they look forward to hopefully playing again for their high schools, the girls might be back to battling against each other on the court but will remain teammates off it.
“We see these videos of kids without shoes and without equipment and them just playing on dirt courts. They don’t even have courts there. And it really has changed my perspective on how fortunate I am,” Ikemori said.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the name of La Cañada High School. The error has been corrected. (February 19, 2021)