COLUMBUS, Ohio — The month of July is dedicated to raising awareness about disabilities.
In northeast Ohio, there’s a new program serving up a fun sport to people who otherwise may not get the chance to play.
At Center Court Tennis Club in Broadview Heights, just south of Cleveland, experienced tennis players are helping people with all sorts of disabilities thrive in tennis.
“Thrive is a nonprofit organization,” said Nancy Sobecks, the owner of Center Court Tennis Club and Thrive board member. “We started programs including wheelchair tennis — adaptive. Adaptive is for kids with either physical or mental disabilities.”
“I like tennis, being with the volunteers. I love engaging with everyone here, with all my friends and having a fun time,” said Joey Sorece, 19, one of the adaptive players.
Their smiles show how much they love it, and they’re building confidence.
“I am very, very good,” he said. “I am very active. I love the running. I love hitting the balls.”
Sorece has played almost every sport under the sun, so he’s been able to swing right into action on the court.
The Junior Adaptive program allows the players to get personalized lessons, working on form and connecting with the ball.
Thrive also offers wheelchair tennis for kids and adults.
David Kucsma has been an avid tennis player for 35 years, but recently he needed to find a new way to play.
“I have Parkinson’s and the Parkinson’s takes my balance and stability away,” he said. “And I could no longer play the normal game of tennis.”
But he didn’t want to give it up.
“I just went out and bought a chair, and said I would find people who would hit balls with me,” Kucsma explained.
About six weeks ago, he found Thrive, where he mostly works with head pro and Thrive’s executive director, Brian Smallwood.
“I’m particularly involved with the wheelchair, and when you see someone connect when they push and they figure out the timing, it’s priceless,” said Smallwood.