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National official lauds YMCA of Kanawha Valley’s West Side youth tennis program

Metro photo by CLINT THOMAS
Immersing themselves in a water bottle battle at YMCA camp on June 22 at Coonskin Park are Mary C. Snow, Edgewood Elementary and Kanawha City Elementary students, from left, Onica Robinson, Maureen Wilder, Devyn Daniels, Luke Murphy and Xianna Day-Burr.

At the inaugural members’ meeting at Coonskin Park June 22, YMCA of Kanawha Valley officers, supporters and, of course, members congregated to celebrate the past, regale in the present and look toward the future.

Distinguished among the local Y’s accomplishments was its recently launched West Side Tennis Initiative Program, in which free, individual tennis lessons are being offered through early August for youths on Charleston’s West Side.

The meeting’s keynote speaker, Bruce Griffin of Y-USA, “spoke very positively and glowingly about a number of the things we’re doing,” YMCA of Kanawha Valley President and CEO Monty Warner said. “Of particular interest to him was the West Side Tennis Initiative.”

Warner explained that the initiative was coordinated by YMCA of Kanawha Valley Tennis Director Mindy White, Dr. Bill Carter and Newt Thomas. “The program gives West Side kids ages 9 to 15 the opportunity to get free, 30-minute tennis lessons for the entire summer. They come every weekday from 8:30 to noon and sign up for a block of one-on-one instruction. We have four tennis pros teaching four kids and they rotate every half-hour.”

The instructors include Capital High School tennis coach Ashley Kennedy, and CHS students, White said.

“Bruce was particularly struck by that program, meeting a need of the community and having the YMCA respond within a matter of weeks, putting together a program to keep the kids busy in the summer,” Warner said.

“Once they come for their eighth lesson,” White added, “we give the kids a free tennis racquet. We’re really trying to make our presence known there on the West Side. Seeing those courts being used is having such a positive impact on the community. We’ve had people actually stop by and ask, ‘Can I get my kid a lesson?’”

White said young players receive a free lunch during the days they participate. “It’s a lot of good fellowship,” she said. “We’re getting to know the kids one on one.”

Warner also commended the City of Charleston, St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church and the Kiwanis Club of the West Side for their assistance in the youth tennis program. The Midwest U.S. Tennis Association donated tennis racquets and balls to the effort, as well.

“Stonewall Jackson Middle School closed down their tennis team about four years ago, so those middle schoolers haven’t had tennis as an outlet,” Warner said. “We worked with the principal and said, ‘If we do this instruction this summer and build up the talent pool, will you set up a tennis team next spring?’ So the kids at Stonewall Jackson Middle School will have an alternative in spring sports that they haven’t had for a number of years.”

“We’re working with local businesses to help make this a community outreach program,” White said.

Tennis lessons are taught on the courts near Stonewall Jackson Middle School on Washington Street, West. Should it rain, lessons are taught indoors at Mary C. Snow West Side, Edgewood or Grandview elementary schools.

For more details about the lessons, phone 304-340-3533 or email

Other YMCA of Kanawha Valley summer activities include:

• The YMCA is conducting free tennis lessons for autistic youths ages 5 to 18, in its “Net Gains for Autism” program. The next session is scheduled for 3 to 4 p.m. July 17 and 24 at the Y.

• In progress are weekly lacrosse practice and pickup for youths in grades five through 12.

• Every Monday from 5 until 7 p.m. this summer, a farmers market is available with locally grown produce for purchase in the Charleston Family YMCA parking lot.

• The YMCA is also operating the pool at Pioneer Park in East Bank this summer, open from noon to 6 p.m. through Aug. 7.

The Coonskin Park pool is open daily from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. through Labor Day weekend.

Daily admission is $3 for adults, $2 for children ages 4 to 12 and $2 for senior citizens at each pool.

For more information about YMCA of Kanawha Valley activities and membership, visit 100 YMCA Drive in Charleston in person, online, direct email inquiries to or call 304-340-3527.

The Y also maintains Facebook and Twitter social media accounts you can follow.

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