Youth empowering tennis program bolstered with donation

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Text Summit Staff

A Hawaii-based entrepreneur is donating a portion of her company’s profits to support Kōkua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services (KKV) in fostering community health.

On Thursday, June 18, Christine Watanabe, developer of the Score At Hand tennis racket scorekeeper, will contribute $625 to support KKV’s after-school youth tennis program. Watanabe will present the check to KKV’s Head Coach Vailima Watson (pictured above) and youth team members at the Kalihi District Park tennis court at 4:30 p.m.

“We are thrilled and grateful that Score At Hand wants to partner with us to engage Kalihi youth in the health-promoting activities of tennis, instilling in them a positive sense of self and community,” said KKV Executive Director Dr. David Derauf. “It especially moved me to learn that Christine was giving a portion from her company sales to help our kids.”

KKV is the first Hawaiʻi non-profit selected by Score At Hand to receive ongoing support. The company will continue to donate $1 for every retail sale made and .50 for every wholesale purchase.

“We feel it’s very important to support local tennis programs, especially those serving our talented youth in need,” Watanabe said.

Designed and developed in Hawaii, where tennis is played year-round, Score At Hand is a unique tennis record-keeper that mounts securely on the handle of any racket. Marketed globally, the device has scored with tennis players who want to focus on “being in the game” and remain confident of the score.

It was the inventor’s own coach, Rick Wilson, who had suggested KKV’s program when Watanabe was looking for a community tennis team to give back to. Wilson, a United States Professional Tennis Association-certified pro, had crossed paths with KKV’s team through the United States Tennis Association (USTA) junior tennis program, and had been impressed by the skill and sportsmanship that the Kalihi youth displayed on the court and off.

Watanabe said, “I wanted to find a Hawaii tennis program that was making a difference—and KKV is it.”

“This is a great blessing and it shows how well our kids have represented KKV and the Kalihi community,” said “Coach Vailima.” She and her husband Jerry Watson, co-coach the KKV and Farrington High School teams. “I firmly believe that the social development lessons we do with the kids help build their confidence, behavior and character, and set them on a positive path in life.”

KKV’s youth tennis program engages Kalihi youth and provides health education, community service, goal-setting and leadership development activities. For over 20 years, KKV’s after-school tennis program has provided thousands of Kalihi youth with caring mentorship and a safe space where they can develop their strengths and life skills and find encouragement to step beyond their disadvantaged backgrounds in pursuit of their dreams. Since 2007, over 90 percent of program graduates have gone on to college.

KKV will use the Score At Hand donation to support youth participation in after-school games, USTA tournaments, and the program’s social development components. KKV’s tennis teams have gone to USTA sectional championships for six years in a row now. In the 2015 spring season, KKV’s two junior tennis teams (4.0 18’s Division) “had many close games, losing sometimes by just a point or two to our opponents,” said Coach Vailima. “Our kids play their hearts out. They always get positive comments from many coaches and players about how polite and well behaved they are, win or lose.”

KKV’s youngest competing member, Andre Llagan, a Farrington High School freshman, took the Public Schools OIA Boys Singles championship title. He was also voted by the OIA coaches as “Player of the Year.” Going on to the State Championships, Llagan lost to Punahou’s top-ranked player, a senior and three-time winner.

Coach Vailima noted with pride that the recent losses “haven’t tainted our kids’ spirits. They say they’ll just work harder to get to the Winter Sectional Championships. I told Andre that he has three years to try and win the State Championships. He smiled and said, ‘Yes Coach.’

“I love them all as my own kids,” the youth mentor said. “For me, their growth in character is a championship in itself.”

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