WRP challenge benefits King Street tennis program

Aug-2-F-KIds-on-the-Ball-SJake Agna inspires involvement. Whether it’s by getting kids out onto the tennis court or reaching local businesses and individuals, the message is the same: keep your eye on the ball, and your efforts will pay off.  For some kids, the lessons in perseverance teach them to follow their dreams.  For businesses and individuals who contribute to Agna’s Kids on the Ball program, the payout comes in helping those dreams come true.
Knowing the impact Kids on the Ball tennis makes on some of the community’s most vulnerable youth, Wind Ridge Publishing (WRP) and friends has issued a challenge to the entire community. The Shelburne business is committed to match dollar-for-dollar any gift to the Kids on the Ball program now until Oct. 15, up to a maximum of $25,000. “We are excited to grow our program to welcome new community partners and make sure that we can guarantee court time for the hundreds of kids who can’t wait to get a racquet in their hands,” says Jake Agna, director of Kids on the Ball. “We will be able to accomplish so much because of this challenge…we can’t thank WRP enough for their generosity.”
Fourteen years ago Agna created Kids on the Ball as a way to integrate some of Burlington’s at-risk youth into his highly successful junior development tennis program at the private clubs. The program began in 2000 with 20 students and now includes after-school, summer camp, and Summer in the Park tennis programs for more than 1,400 youngsters from across the city. Kids on the Ball is also now part of each elementary school’s physical education curriculum in Burlington.
Frank Willis is one example of how Kids on the Ball can positively influence its participants. A member of Burlington High School’s varsity tennis team and recent graduate, Willis plays weekly with his King Street Center mentor, Mark Johnson. “One of the people who has impacted my life is Jake Agna. Jake got me into playing tennis when I was in 6th grade through King Street Center. He motivated me when I was down and has given me some great memories and lessons. Jake told me to stick with the game – it does not matter if I am not as good as the other kids, but just to have fun. Without Jake’s words of wisdom and motivation, I would not be playing tennis right now and would not have enjoyed the sport as much as I do.” Willis will begin training at New England Culinary Institute this fall.
In addition to running the junior development tennis program at The Edge in South Burlington for the past 28 years, Agna has coached the South Burlington High School girls’ tennis team since 1983, leading them to 16 state championships. Agna has also provided tennis as an enrichment opportunity for students in the Progressive Program at South Burlington High School for the past six years.
Awards for Agna’s efforts include the prestigious USTA Eve Craft Community Service Award, the USTA New England NJTL Chapter of the Year Award, Recreation Professional of the Year, The Pizzagalli Prize, The Ralph Lapointe Award, and the Vermont Lake Monsters Community Sports Hall of Fame award.
WRP and The King Street Center are calling on you to help Agna continue his winning ways. Tax-deductible donations for the WRP challenge will be accepted online at www.kingstreetcenter.org or by check until Oct. 15. Checks should be mailed to: King Street Center at PO Box 1615, Burlington, VT  05402. Please write Kids on the Ball on the memo line.
Annually serving more than 500 children and families in the Burlington area, King Street Center is:
• Home to Kids on the Ball, a year-round, USTA-certified tennis program for children of all ages.
• A Five-Star preschool for 15 children ages 3-5. They are a Head Start partner center and all of their spaces are Head Start eligible.
• A large and diverse afterschool program for children in grades K-5 that includes homework help, technology education, athletics, and the arts.
• An innovative afterschool program for middle- and high-school youth that focuses on academic achievement, job training, and college preparation.
• A safe, welcoming place where teens meet in the evenings to do homework, use a computer, or play sports with friends.
• Home to one of the largest mentoring programs in the state, where children are matched one-on-one with caring adults in the community.
• A gathering place for many community groups and non-profit organizations.
• A proud member agency of the United Way of Chittenden County.