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Kids N' Tennis Mural at St. Johns Racquet Center

This section is comprised of pictures taken and articles written about Kids N’ Tennis, Inc. Over the last 25 plus years, our organization has been blessed with a great deal of “Fantastic Media Coverage!”  As you peruse these Archival pages we hope that you gain an  appreciation of the accomplishments of Kids N’ Tennis, and the children we have enjoyed working with from day one.  For those of you have participated and volunteered, we hope that these pages provide you with “fond memories of good times and lasting friendships!”

Kids N’ Tennis a Gem in Portland – Reported by Kerry Eggers

(Left to Right) Kenya McKinley, Linda Glavinski, Rachel Hegge

When Don Johnson was a youngster growing up in Portland, OR. he had the best of role models.  Phil Walden was, as Johnson puts it, “my mentor.”  Johnson wasn’t alone.  For many years, Walden coached inner-city kids in basketball and track and field and provided them with a constructive outlet that helped them grow into responsible adults.  Johnson, 41 tennis coach at Portland’s Wilson High for the past five years, didn’t forget.  Three years ago, he was looking around for the Phil Waldens of today.  They were nowhere to be found.  So Johnson founded Kids N’ Tennis, Inc. a program designed to draw at-ristk, lower-income children to the sport of tennis.  It began as a summer program at Irving Park in Northeast Portland, conducted through the Portland Parks Bureau.  It has become a year-round production that has done an excellent job of funneling kids off the streets and into a lifetime sport.

Johnson and assistant Andre St. James run the program modeled after several inner-city prototypes, such as Zina Garrison’s in Houston and Vitas Gerulaitis’ in New York.  It began as a summer camp in 1987 with 30 children ages 8-18 involved in a 10-week program with instruction provided two hours a day, four days a week.  The second year, Kids N’ Tennis had 42 boys and girls enrolled and an average of 35 at each session.  Johnson expanded it to a year-round program at the Portland Tennis Center with sessions twice weekly, and last year he had 60 kids in the summer and 24 in the year-round program.  Of the 24, 15 are black, one is Hispanic and most are from the inner city.

Johnson, who lived in the Irving Park area until a move across the Columbia River to Vancouver, Washington, last summer, has made a deep personal commitment to the kids.  He volunteers his time and accepts no salary.  He works hard at raising money for the program’s $3,600 annual budget and has lured several sponsors.  “I want to get these kids, minority kids especially to recognize that there is a place for them in tennis.  That they can develop and perhaps there will be college scholarships available for them down the road,” Johnson says.  Students pay a small monthly fee, and if more sponsor money rolls in, “we’ll drop the fee to nothing.”  “That’s the goal.  We want every kid who wants to play to hve the opportunity.”

Kids N’ Tennis is endorsed by the Pacific Northwest Tennis Association, the Greater Portland Tennis Council and the USTA.  Each participant becomes a USTA member.  Several local teaching pros have provided instruction in the program this year.  It’s a grassroots program and most of the players are beginners when they join, Johnson says.  Many have kept with it to become quality players.  Two youngsters, Shamarra Jackson and Gary Burks, have had a great deal of success in local tournament play.  Last summer, Johnson took a group to the Mirror Pond Tournament in Bend, Oregon.  Linda Glavinski won the Girls’ 16 and under title and Rachel Hegge was runner-up in the Girls’ 18.

The chance to experience new things is part of the idea.  Of the nine who traveled to Bend, six had never been outside of Portland before, Johnson says.  Many rode horses for the first time there.  The program includes training in social graces through a “eating for etiquette program.”  Advanced players help instruct newer players.  Kids N’ Tennis has earned the respect of many observers.  “Don runs a good show,” says Jim Flynn, Portland Parks Bureau tennis director.  “It’s good stuff.  He has a broad program, and he works hard at promoting it and gaining sponsorship.”

“I think he’s doing a great job,” says Nancy Osborne, director of the USTA schools and junior recreational programs for the PNWTA.  “Each year he’s gotten more kids involved.  Don has a lot of energy and he’s going out there and getting results.  The important thing about his program,” Osborne says, “is he’s reaching out into the community and getting a lot of minority kids excited about tennis.  He’s the only one doing that right now.  With the gang situation and problems teens and young people have with drugs and all those negative influences, he’s making a positive influence on those kids’ lives.”

Johnson says he is thrilled with the program’s growth and optimistic about its future.  The first three years, the goal was to see if we could pull it off,” Johnson says.  “The next five years, the goal is to see how much we can grow.”  Tennis USTA – January 1992