Testimonials from Our Parents & Athletes & Volunteers
It’s a family affair!
“What brought you to Special Pops Tennis?” we ask all our volunteers. Some answers are pretty obvious, others less so. A desire to honor a dear friend, teacher, mentor and coach brought the Sutkus family our way this year. Jill and Michael Sutkus, daughter Julia (18) and son AJ (12) were looking for a way to celebrate Sue Scheer, a special needs teacher in the Fulton County schools who died tragically last year. “Every day, AJ and Julia would see her love and passion for her students. To honor her memory, we wanted to get involved as Sue always did.”
What better way to honor a special needs teacher than as a volunteer with Special Pops Tennis? Jill, Julia, and AJ jumped right in volunteering at the Country Club of Roswell training site. Their experience of playing tennis was an obvious asset. From the beginning, their ability to relate and encourage the athletes they worked with was inspiring. They were also first-time Unified Partners at the Special Olympics GA Summer Games 2 weeks ago – a true test of a new volunteer’s passion for the job!
“Our experience was nothing but fun. “We are continually amazed at the progress we see in the athletes and how excited they get when they hit that winner!” For Michael and Jill, seeing their kids encourage the athletes with hugs and high fives have been fun to watch. They also enjoy sharing with each other how the experience with an individual has impacted them in different ways. It has also made them want to do more as a family to get involved. Watch for the Sutkus family at future SPT events. They’ll be enjoying every minute. What a wonderful tribute for a special friend.
A relatively new – but promising – tennis player, Shira Lipton chose Special Pops Tennis for her service project on her way to becoming a Bat Mitzvah. “When I learned about Special Pops Tennis, I thought it would be the perfect place to volunteer,” she said.
She was right. Shira wasted no time worrying whether she was giving the perfect feed to the athletes she worked with at the Country Club of Roswell training site on Wednesday nights. From her experience playing, she knew that tennis is about moving, so she challenged the athletes to move their feet while teaching how to hit a forehand or a backhand. Shira was always encouraging and positive and the athletes quickly took to her, greeting her with a hug and competing to stand next to her in warm-ups and pictures.
“Now that everyone knows me, it really feels nice to see how excited they are to work with me. I get a great sense of fulfillment seeing how much fun they are having and how much they’ve improved as tennis players,” she said. Shira was also a Unified Partner for the first time at the Special Olympics Summer Games 2 weeks ago. She may have been the last one off the court on Saturday, but we expect we’ll be seeing more of Shira in the future!
Tyler Luciani has been a part of special pops for over 6 years. Because of the program, his tennis skills have improved immensely. He especially enjoys the numerous volunteers that he interacts with. Although making peer friends is challenging for him, I think he likes the other athletes that he has the opportunity to play with.
As a mother of a special needs child, it is a rarity for him to be able to participate in a program free of charge. Additionally, because parents are not required to stay on-site, it gives him a wonderful sense of independence.
— Sissy Luciani
Join us in our mission to enrich the lives of children and adults with intellectual disabilities through the lifetime sport of tennis.