It was a particularly heart-warming moment on Sunday, August 25th as a group of children and their families gathered at Thorncliffe Park Tennis Club. It was two weeks to the day since Bianca Andreescu had lifted the gleaming Rogers Cup presented by National Bank trophy aloft on Aviva Centre’s Stadium Court with a Canadian flag draped over her shoulders. The 19-year-old, born in Mississauga, Ontario, had become the first Canadian since Faye Urban in 1969 to claim the coveted prize.
Fourteen days later, the children at Thorncliffe Park Tennis Club were celebrating for a different reason. Each of them had completed their Rogers Community Team Tennis program following the conclusion of the Tennis Canada Summer Tennis Camp at Aviva Centre in early July. The camp was for New Canadian Youth, defined as children between the ages of 8-13 whose families have moved to Canada within the past 10 years. It was made possible thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor family as well as the selfless instructors at Thorncliffe Park Tennis Club, who also waived the junior membership fee requirement for each of the participants.
“On behalf of Thorncliffe Park Tennis Club we would like to thank the donor,” said Christine Barachina, President of Thorncliffe Park Tennis Club. “The program was a great success and the children enjoyed the opportunity to play tennis for a first time. We look forward to running more junior programs for new immigrants in our community.”
Matt Baccarani, the coach who delivered the program, added: “It was a very easy decision to get involved with Tennis Canada’s continuation camp and we’re so pleased to have been in the position to help out. Hopefully we can continue to grow the game in our community year after year.”
Along with a Tennis Canada representative, also present at the celebration was Rob Oliphant, Member of Parliament for Don Valley West. “I grew up on the R.Y.T.A.C. tennis courts in Sault St. Marie. Tennis is a great way for newcomers of all ages to learn new skills, build self-confidence and become an active member of their community.
“This year, the Thorncliffe Park Tennis Club and Tennis Canada worked hard to provide new members of our community a place to gather to meet new people and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle by matching the generous donation from an anonymous donor. I was able to witness firsthand the positive impact their work has on young members of our community, allowing newcomers an opportunity to learn a new sport with friends and neighbours.”
The fact Andreescu had won Rogers Cup just a fortnight prior was made even more relevant as the teenager had spent a portion of her childhood in Romania, where her parents are originally from. There was certainly strong Romanian support from the stands for Andreescu during the tournament in Toronto. It, therefore, felt apt that a group of children of such varying backgrounds were gathered together at a local, community tennis club, just 35 kilometres from Aviva Centre, with many of them having, in relative terms, only just embarked on their tennis journey.
It certainly felt like the program had come full circle. When it initially started in July, the children also had the chance to meet former Canadian tennis star and 12-time Grand Slam doubles champion Daniel Nestor, who had himself moved to Canada from Serbia at a young age.
“Our goal was to help these youth stay active and connected in their local communities through tennis by providing a chance to be immersed in the sport for the entire summer,” commented Sophie Ronan, Director of Community Tennis at Tennis Canada.
“By providing free equipment, instruction, summer-long access to a local community tennis club, through our partner Thorncliffe Park Tennis Club, and using Daniel Nestor as a role model as someone who experienced being a new Canadian himself, we aimed to build their tennis skills but also show that tennis is a sport for all Canadians to have fun, stay active, reach their goals and build friendships in a safe and welcoming environment.”