For the love of tennis

Unseasonably hot temperatures didn't stop a strong turnout of athletes from participating in the second annual Vermillion High School "Save Our Sport" Tennis Tournament, held last weekend at the outdoor courts near the DakotaDome.

Mary Gertsema of Yankton traveled to Vermillion Saturday to take part in the "Save Our Sport" Tennis Tournament. The event was held last weekend to raise funds so that the tennis program at Vermillion High School may continue. (Photo by David Lias)

The event, open to female and male junior and adult participants, featured singles and doubles play. The athletes paid a fee to participate, and that money will go toward the goal of restoring high school tennis for the 2012-13 school year.

"All the parents have tried to get together to raise the money we need to keep the tennis team going," said Steve Ford, who helped organize the tournament, "and I've played in a number of tennis tournaments over the years so I felt like that was something I could contribute."

Ford's son, Jacob, who will be a sophomore at Vermillion High School this fall, will also be one of the members of the VHS tennis team if enough funds are raised in the community this summer.

Budget cuts to the school district's budget on both the state and local level led to the Vermillion School Board's decision to drop the funding of the tennis program in 2011.

"When they (the school board) cut the tennis program, they cut two sports, really, not just one," Ford said, noting that there are separate high school seasons in the spring and fall for girls and boys.

Parents and other local tennis lovers successfully raised enough revenue to allow the district to offer tennis without taxpayers' support in the 2011-12 school year. Backers of the young tennis athletes are hoping net enough funding to allow the sport to continue in the coming school year.

The tournament action began Friday, June 29, with the junior participants competing. Adults took to the courts on Saturday. Championship rounds had been scheduled for Sunday, but Ford was optimistic Saturday afternoon that the smooth operation of the tournament would allow it to conclude later that day.

"There may be a couple of matches that may spill over into tomorrow (July 1), but we should be able to wrap up most of it today," he said.

Local fundraising efforts must be complete by the end of this month to keep the high school tennis program operating.

"We have to raise $8,500 by Aug. 1," Ford said with an optimistic tone. "It's not going to be easy, but we were able to do it last year and we've got a good start this year."

Young athletes and their parents are chipping away at that funding with efforts both big and small, ranging from the weekend's tournament to simple word of mouth throughout the community about the need for private donations.

"We also gave an assignment to all of the boys and girls in the program – that their families would contact family and friends and try to raise $200 each," Ford said. "With 30 kids in the program, if they all do it, that would raise about $6,000.

"Between that and the tournament, we're going to be pretty close if that works out," he said. "It's been a good tournament, and we've had cloud cover today (Saturday afternoon) for most of the matches so that worked out well."

People interested in helping with the tennis program fundraising efforts may send donations to the Vermillion Public Schools Foundation (Tennis Fund). All donations will be tax-deductible.

Donations may be addressed to:

Vermillion Public Schools Foundation

PO Box 569

Vermillion, SD, 57069

Attn: Tennis Fund

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