Brenre Taylor and Za’Kiyah Hixson at the US Open

The HOLLA! Eagles Tennis Team is continuing its’ goal of striving for excellence. In one month’s time, members had the opportunity to attend two prestigious events. In July, Eagles Brenre Taylor, Jeremiah Kirkley, and Za’Kiyah Hixson traveled to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. There, they observed and competed in matches for the American Tennis Associ- ation’s National Tournament. Taylor was paired against the top teen at the tournament. Hixson won a match in the 12-year-old category.

In August, Taylor and Hixson were in New York for the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament. At the U.S. Open, the two were able to go on center court for Net Generation’s promotion for Youth Tennis. They also witnessed the unveiling of the Althea Gibson statue and completed tennis demonstrations. It was through a partnership with Mr. Lenny Simpson that they could be present at one of the sport’s most respected and highly anticipated events.

Simpson is a retired professional tennis player and founder of the One Love Tennis Foundation in Wilmington, NC.
Alex Gaddy, HOLLA’s Activities Director, credits the Eagles Tennis Team’s success to member participation. “The young people work so hard with very little resources, and in the tennis world they are over-achievers based on that alone”, he said. His
networking has contributed to the connection with Simpson’s non-profit.

Simpson, a Wilmington, North Carolina native, was encouaged by tennis legend, Althea Gibson, to pursue a place in the sport. He later traveled alongside Arthur Ashe and became close friends with him. According to LSTEF’s website, its’ mission is “to empower and inspire young people, ages 6-12, especially those at risk, to lead healthy, productive lives through participation in a tennis and academic enrichment program.”

The HOLLA! Eagles Tennis program was started in 2013 through the LET’S MOVE project funded by a grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. Founder and CEO of HOLLA! Leon Gatewood had the vision and foresight to include a regulation- sized tennis court in the plans of the HOLLA! Center’s design.

Activities Director Gaddy was able to consult with people for resources to help build the tennis program. In doing so, HOLLA! recruited the late coach Alan Blackwell, a well-known tennis professional. HOLLA! also forged partnerships with the USTA, a top governing body of American tennis. Of the tennis program, Gatewood explained, “it has validated the need for the sport in our local schools; we need to give our students an opportunity to play tennis”.

The community has been a stark supporter of the program from day one. Travel and
participation have been totally funded from donations from the private sector and generous individuals. For inquiries about enrolling a child into the tennis team or to support the program, please contact Alex Gaddy at 704-851- 3144. Donations can be mailed to: HOLLA! P.O. Box 88 Wadesboro, NC 28170.

HOLLA! is a 501 c 3 non-profit Community Development Corporation founded in 2005 to help motivate children to succeed through exposure to amazing people, places and things, while enlarging their social capital. The organization operates from a facility located at 229 East Main Street in Morven, NC. For more information call 704.851.3144.

By Devin T Pettiford