Summer is now in full swing, which also means it's summer camp time for countless numbers of kids in Connecticut. Children with autistic spectrum disorders have also been given the opportunity to enjoy a special camp experience of their own courtesy of Well Served Tennis Academy, located in Simsbury, Connecticut.
The camp, which was founded by Executive Director Shannon Knall, has been running for just a few years, but was an instant success. This year, it enjoyed its biggest turnout thus far with 18 campers attending the June 23 through July 2 session.
Knall is a mother of three boys, one of whom is autistic. She is also a lifelong tennis player.
"I appreciate the calming impact the sport has had on me. It is a sport I love for its rhythm, its ability to challenge me both physically and mentally and for the opportunity it presents to participate on any level," she said.
When Knall's son was diagnosed with autism, the sport not only became an outlet for her, it also sparked an idea.
"I contemplated the similarly calming impact it might have on him," she said.
"At the time I was playing on a USTA team and shared this hypothesis with my teammate Chris O'Connor. Chris has had years of running summer camps for various organizations in Connecticut, so we decided to combine our mutual love of tennis with our life experiences to create Well Served Tennis Academy, which was formed in 2010," explained Knall.
Camp features group tennis instruction, fitness training, hands-on team building or social activity and snack and lunch time. Approximately 25 volunteers are at camp on any given day offering one-on-one volunteer support.
The cost of camp is kept to a "bare minimum" of $25 per camper for eight days, said Knall, who added, "We will not turn away any camper due to financial hardship."
None of this would be possible, however, without the financial support of Pratt & Whitney.
"We know that one of the areas Pratt & Whitney focuses on is investing in vibrant communities. As you know, autism affects one in 68 children, so I took a chance that this might be an effort they would be interested in supporting. And they have been an outstanding partner," said Knall.
Well Served Tennis Academy is also financially supported by the Simsbury Junior Women's Club, fundraisers and in-kind donations from Farmington Valley Racquet Club, Melissa Richards Photography, the town of Simsbury and Simsbury Parks and Recreation.
For more information about Well Served Tennis Academy, visit them on Facebook and at http://wstennisacademy.org/.