Tara Sabado, who is the Park’s Inclusion Specialist, has never been more excited with funding to be used to grow the local wheelchair tennis than now. She states the grant has helped to fund many aspects of the program, including hosting clinics and advertising. Two of their local players have shined in their clinics and have drawn lots of local attention to their program. In highlighting two of their players, there is a young gentleman named Damien, and Soen Kwee.
Damien is a paraplegic from an accident occurring several years ago. Before his accident, Damien was an avid surfer. Since then he has worked hard at becoming self-sufficient and has become active in recreational activities. Tennis has given Damien the opportunity to be more mobile and athletic once again. Damien attends the program with his son and other family members, who love to cheer him on. He is very enthusiastic about what tennis has done to his life and has brought other individuals to the program.
The second player is Soen Kwee. He is the founder of Maui’s famous COOK WEE cookies. Soen is 89 years old, and has played competitive tennis for 50 years. Due to stability issues, Soen must use a walker for ambulation. He never imagined that he would ever play tennis again. Wheelchair tennis has enabled Soen to get back on the court. Maui has a good para-transit system that allows him to independently participate in the program without having to coordinate rides from his daughter.
Tara Sabada states "I call them the yin and yang of our program, both very different but gives me all the inspiration I need to keep this program alive". The coordinators, volunteers and participants of the Maui Park and Recreation Department’s Wheelchair Tennis Program are very grateful and appreciative of this USTA National Grant. We look forward to the many new things this grant has offered us and the opportunities to grow our program. We are thankful for the many volunteers and former women’s open player Beth Arnoult for her help as well to help us gain greater awareness and visibility in our community. We are excited about what the future will bring us in terms of growing wheelchair tennis in Hawaii!