A Helpful Serve

A Helpful Serve

Local tennis pro hosts invitational tournament to benefit special needs children.

Diane Anderson has met many families over the years in the same situation as her family — they all have children with special needs.

Anderson wanted to form an organization that would allow the families to come together and share resources and experiences. She formed Kidz Clubhouse, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing resources and care to special needs children and their families.

"We wanted to see how we could come alongside those families," said Anderson. "You want to help your kids be the best they can be."

Anderson and a friend from church, Spencer Kooshian, recently got together to organize an event that would benefit the organization. Kooshian is the tennis pro at the Burke Racquet and Swim Club, so he thought a tennis tournament would be a great way to spread the word and raise some money. He decided that the second annual Love-All Invitational, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 18-19, would directly benefit Kidz Clubhouse this year.

"My wife and I had complications with my son, so it gave me a heart for working with kids with disabilities," said Kooshian.

Being a tennis pro has its perks, one of them being a circle of friends that include other tennis pros. Kooshian invited some of his buddies to play and ended up with several professional doubles players, past and present, in the tournament.

Scott Pennington played doubles with Kooshian when they were students at Virginia Commonwealth University. Pennington said he would have come up to see his friend whatever the cause, but he was touched that it was for children with disabilities because he has experienced what it's like to be a parent of such a child.

"I definitely have a soft spot in my heart for any children with special needs," said Pennington.

The great thing about this tournament, said Pennington, is that the tennis is not cut-throat. It's competitive, but the players have a good time knowing that they're playing for something other than competition.

"It's really nice playing for a cause and not just myself," said Trevor Spracklin, one of the professional players in the tournament.

Corporate sponsorships and proceeds from T-shirt and concession sales went directly to the organization. Elizabeth Daus, a tennis player at the club and a local business-owner, was one of the main sponsors at the event. She said when she heard about the tournament from Kooshian she knew she had to be a part of it.

FOR ANDERSON, IT'S just one way to raise awareness about the network of families who are there to help each other. Her 17-year-old son, Chris, has a high functioning form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome, said Anderson. Chris has a hard time socially, and the organization is a way to help similar children have a place to interact. It's Anderson's way of getting people together to not only talk about their circumstances, but try to make the best out of them.

"It gives kids with disabilities a place to be with other kids," said Anderson. "And it gives a little break to the families."

Anderson runs the organization from her home, but she has partnered up with several churches in the Washington, D.C. area that provide their facilities for camps and events. In the summertime, Kidz Clubhouse offers day camps featuring games, arts and crafts, music and field trips. Volunteers working for the organization also make house-calls, providing respite care and counseling. The families that participate in the program also benefit from a referral network of medical specialists, said Anderson.

"When you have kids with disabilities you tend to isolate yourself," said Anderson. "This is a place that provides more of those opportunities we take for granted, like birthday parties and sports activities."