Posts From the Children

Kaitlin Reflects

Kaitlin with Foundation Alum Ozzie Tavares

Kaitlin with Foundation Alum Ozzie Tavares

Today was such an amazing day I'm not even sure I can put it into words.  Since I've come back from college I've been doing a lot of thinking.  What I want my summer objectives to be what coming back to the Foundation means to me, where I want to go in life and who I want to be.  And I'd kind of settled into what seemed to a few different themes of my life currently.  The first is starting over.  When I quit tennis, I assumed it would be forever.  My pride was too big to ever go back to the academy or really be associated.  I was young and ignorant.  I didn't see that tennis was so much more than a sport at this point in my life. I got a job and good grades and thought I was doing well for myself.  And slowly Ozzie began to tip toe back into my life and with that he brought the idea of "greatness." Now at the time I was doing fine, but having felt and experienced what I had with the Foundation, deep down I knew it wasn't quite right. I was doing okay, better than most. But I wasn't my best. I tried on my own to be great and seemed to be faced with what felt like a string of just mistakes and tripping over my own feet. I could have sworn the harder I tried to be better at life the worse I got. The beginning of my freshman year of college was a blur of this. Trying to get up and spring only to trip again. Somewhere in there I started to do really well. I thought I was beginning to reach even a small amount of my potential, only to find after winter break I tripped myself again.

A few nights ago I was discussing with my friend Tim the concept of greatness and what it means to be your best and I explained to him how it felt like I might never be able to stand up and stay up in life. And as these words slipped out of my mouth I realized how silly they were. And it was in that moment that I decided to dive 100% in. Not just to work or school, but all of life. I had been afraid to fully emerge myself in these waters for so long. But in doing so now, I've began to feel the ripples slowly hitting me. The absolute best feeling in the world is knowing you gave every last thing you had to give that day, and then going to bed with a smile proud. These past few days I've felt so alive, like I probably haven't since I was 14 or 15. And the worlds through many tough trials and adversities at me already and I've overcome them with stride.  The reason I started this long tangent was because today I was listening to Starting Over by Macklemore. And I think about what I have to offer these kids all the time. I quit. I messed up. And today I realized I'm a perfect example of even if you mess up or fall off the tracks, you can always come back to center and go home. I think that is what I want this summer to be about for me. Coming home and giving back. I know I would not be where I am today without you Wolfington. You saved my life. Coming to this Foundation changed me in ways I will never be able to forget or deny. I have a full ride scholarship to a tier one school. And I started working today at 8 am and I just got home and I've never felt better. I'm still not sure what this summer has in store for me but I know it will lead to great things.

Thank you from Samantha

A few years ago, if anyone told me I had won any form of a sportsmanship award, I would have called them insane. As Ryan mentioned, I was at a crossroads, minutes away from quitting and leaving all the suffering behind. But when I came to No Quit, I eventually felt a change. With help from Tim and Ryan I was finally able to enjoy what I was doing and honestly, for the first time in my life, I was finally putting in the work. Maybe that was why I had felt so uncharacteristically happy. I felt I had finally earned what I had gotten and for the first time in a while, I felt like I had made the right decisions. Everyone in this chat has helped me through these years. My mom would do anything for me and refused to let me quit for all those years, something I am now very grateful for. Trent, for being there and doing anything to help me, no matter how small. Erin, for trusting me enough to help her and making me realize how important it is to pass it on. Nicole, for being my best friend and always giving me that push in the right direction. Ryan, for comforting me when things were tough and truly showing me how to lead a happy and fulfilling life. And of course Tim, someone who over that past few years has become not only my coach, but someone I see as a real friend who has gone above and beyond in helping me reach goals I didn't even know I had. I know this message is long and a bit rambling but I just wanted to express how grateful I am for everyone in this message and how happy my life in Vegas has made me. Thank you all for being you and believing in me when I definitely did not. :)

- Samantha Martinelli

Thank you from Selena

To whom it may concern,

I just wanted to say thank-you so much for giving me this opportunity. This foundation, this retreat, it has a culture to it. And I know I’m young and I haven’t experienced everything yet, but this place, these people are far and away the best I’ve come to know. They see and inspire the best in me. You see others taking initiative, getting the job done, working and expecting such a high level of their own excellence, that it makes me want to do the same.

Furthermore, the kindness, wisdom, and openness on the retreat this year is unlike anything I have ever experienced. Don’t get me wrong, every trip I go on with this foundation is magical, inspiring, and uplifting in its own right, but the 2015 winter retreat has the number one spot in my opinion. I’m not sure if it's because I’m at an age where I can fully appreciate everything the alumni and speakers have to say, but when 35 or 40 of us all open up about our biggest regrets, highlights, and insights of the year, it's incredible. I cried: first tears of sadness for my regrets, and later of joy for the opportunity (which is beautifully strange for me because I’m not usually one to cry!) This opportunity has been such a blessing in so many ways and I feel I have gained so much wisdom and meaningfulness with my friends and mentors. Thank-you so much.

Yours truly,

Selena Williams


Chloe Henderson

Winning. Starting as young as preschool, I was taught to win. Taught by my parents, family, teachers, and friends. I was taught to be the best in the class, to have the highest grades, to be the fastest runner, to color in the lines the best, and to win. With this impressive imprint of expectation, I have grown up trying to win. But as I continue to age, I speculate the moral definition of winning.

        By dictionary, winning is “gaining or relating to victory in a contest or competition.” If, in my life, all I am trying to do is win a “contest or competition”, what game am I playing? Am I just a pawn in a large game that society pressures me to be in? A game of monopoly where the only objective is to earn money and houses to “win.” Are these artificial materials the goals that every person in this world should strive for to achieve happiness? To meet the conjectures of society and to win?

In life, if my goals and societal expectations are to win, then what am I trying to win? Money? Commodity? Friends? Or is there a deeper meaning to winning? As I grow older, I continue to be taught to win. I am taught to have the highest grades, to win the most matches, to be the best sister, to have the best projects, and to win. Over the past few months, after losing a tough tennis match to a novice opponent, I have started to scrutinize my life goals, personal objectives, and my purpose in the world. With advice from mentors, I have come to the conclusion that winning is not equivalent to materials or even a score board.

By my new philosophy and my ethical definition, winning is being the best person that I can possibly be in all aspects of my life including tennis, school, family, friends, and within society, despite the possible outcomes. The purpose of life is to achieve happiness and contentment. By doing the best I can and always giving one hundred and ten percent, I can be satisfied and prideful with my effort and with myself. As berserk as it may sound, in tennis, I have learned to try not to win, but rather to focus on just trying my best. Giving my utmost effort in life is the only thing I have control over. I cannot control the questions on the test, the shot my opponent hits, the obnoxious comment my sister makes, the college I get into, the job I will get; but I can control the amount of time I study, the shot I decide to return to my opponent, my response to my sister, my time and effort put into college preparation and applications, and my preparation for a job.

Just recently I have been taught to truly win. Taught by my previous failures, my mentors, and my inquisitions. I have been taught to try my hardest in class, to study and prepare for tests, to run as fast as I can, to be creative and draw outside the lines sometimes, and to be gratified by being the best version of Chloe Henderson.

McKay Novak Thank You Letter to Donor Laurie Steed

Dear Mrs. Steed,

I do not just want to write you a thank you letter. I want to tell you a story of how you have affected my life in a positive way and I hope that will serve as a meaningful thank you. I have been involved with the Marty Hennessy Junior Tennis Foundation since I was ten years old. I was also the first child that they started from scratch; I knew nothing of tennis and really was just following my cousin into the sport. For the first three months I was on a court all by myself just hitting with a ball machine. I worked hard and was ranked #1 in the 10's division in Las Vegas by the end of my first year. I no longer was playing because of my older cousin, I was playing because it was something I had fun with and something I had a passion for. The Foundation subsidized the cost of academy for me and even paid for a lot of the traveling costs. After a while they paid for my tournaments and covered more and more of the payments so that I could continue with the sport. The Foundation taught me about the importance of leadership and how I could apply it to other areas of my life. Consequently, my teachers in school noticed the change in me and nominated me for a leadership trip on the east coast. However this trip was 2,500 dollars and my family simply could not afford the amount. Ryan, recognizing the opportunity for me, said, "let's do some fundraising." I asked family members and friends to donate items for a raffle. I went on the strip and sold these raffle tickets with Ryan for five hours. I went around my church and asked everyone I knew. However I was still short on the total. Ryan then said he could set up a meeting with a donor for me. That donor was you. You paid 500 dollars so that I could attend this leadership trip in Washington D.C. and it was also my first time meeting or even hearing directly from a donor of the Foundation. I still remember you smiling at me and saying, "If you do not come up with enough money to fund the trip please call me. Call me if you need anything." I called my mom and squealed in excitement and told her the news of the woman who gave me more money than I had ever imagined. I was able to go on the trip. The leadership trip was a success and really gave me a lot of tools that I have used over the years. However the trip is not the most important part of the story to me. It was your generosity at a whim after meeting me that really impacted me. And it was not just that one time that I feel you have helped me out of a rut. When I was not in a good place in my life, you invited Ryan, myself, and around ten other kids to go swimming at your house. I was able to bond with the kids over the bubbles in your hot tub. During the Apprentice Competition I worked over 100 hours without a single donation. You allowed Kimberly and I to visit your restaurant contacts and those donations seriously made Kimberly and I smile ear to ear. Both of us really needed that boost to make us feel like our hard work was paying off. Lastly at the retreat, you were the one who made the entire thing possible. I was able to spend time with the alumni; people whom I have looked up to since my days on the ball machine at the Hilton. You also allowed me to aid the younger generation just like myself who are just starting to see their own potential with the help of the Foundation. From the very beginning you have been there; you have been willing to step in just when I needed it the most and I really wanted to thank you for everything: every muffin at tournaments, every contact you shared with Kimberly and me, every time you opened up your house, and every moment you have spent on myself and everyone else in the Foundation. Thank you.

McKay Novak