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Stafford YMCA's new tennis courts open to all

Free Lance-Star - 5/18/2019

May 18-- May 18--"One, two, three and cut!" called Rappahannock Area YMCA executive assistant Holly Bean, finger poised on the button of her camera.

With that, Special Olympics gold medalist Jon Fried, his brother Adam Fried and their mother Barbara Fried cut the ribbon for the new Jon Fried Outdoor Tennis Center at the Massad Family YMCA in Stafford County.

The $450,000 tennis court project, which features five regulation tennis courts and two pickleball courts, had been a dream for many years, Rappahannock Area YMCA CEO Barney Reiley told those who turned out for the grand opening ceremony.

"I remember Joe Rowe talking about making sure that after we built the indoor courts to please, please build these outdoor courts and make sure that we would have some courts available to everyone," he said. "These courts will be a venue for decades to come for children, for people with disabilities, all people, so that long after I'm gone, and long after we're gone, these courts will forever be aligned with the YMCA so that together we can continue to foster the game of tennis for all people."

Reiley got a round of applause when he said that the pickleball courts were added because the sport is growing and has generated lots of enthusiasm locally.

He thanked Jon and Barbara Fried for allowing the courts to be named after Jon, whom he described as an inspiration and consummate gentleman whose tennis trophies are displayed in the YMCA's gym. He also thanked Adam Fried, chief executive officer of Atlantic Builders, for being the project's title sponsor. Fried had donated the profits from a new house to the YMCA, and about $125,000 of that gift went toward the new tennis and pickleball courts.

Adam Fried recalled his brother's intense love of sports when they were growing up in Springfield, and how he's become a legend in Special Olympics. He asked his brother and others in the audience who are Special Olympics athletes to stand with him at the podium to be recognized.

"It's not what we do for them, it's what they do for us," he said.

A woman in a wheelchair propelled herself through the tennis courts' entrance following the ceremony, which included speeches by local and state leaders and a dedication prayer. On the courts, a group of boys and girls in the YMCA's free after-school program for children participating in Stafford Junction--a faith-based nonprofit organization that serves high-need children, youth and their families--were getting ready to play.

Reiley said afterward that he wasn't able to fulfill Rowe's dream of outdoor courts at the Massad Family YMCA at first because he was busy opening three more YMCAs in the region. Then, around 2010, he and his wife attended an Association of Tennis Professionals tournament at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center in Washington. He spotted some school buses parked at the end of the complex, and realized there were children playing on those courts.

"I walked down and asked the counselor, 'What program is this?' " Reiley said.

The counselor told him it was the Washington Tennis and Educational Association, which provides tennis lessons and academic support to underserved children and youth in Washington.

"I remember turning to my wife, and I said that once I get this Caroline YMCA done, I'm going to focus on these outdoor courts 'cause that's what Joe Rowe was talking about," Reiley said.

Service Line, a group of volunteers from the Fawn Lake community in Spotsylvania, is already helping around 30 children from Stafford Junction and the Olde Forge neighborhood learn tennis at the Massad Family YMCA two Sundays a month, he said.

"We're going to continue to partner with them on this particular program, but the Y is going to do quite a bit of its own outreach to children in Hazel Hill, Mayfield and other areas," Reiley said. "We're trying to collaborate with the HOAs and line up some transportation. When they're here, we'll start off doing some tennis and allow them to go into the water park and round out the day very similar to a summer day camp."

He said that more research needs to be done on offering an educational component, and he will meet with staff to see how that can be phased in. The programs and transportation will be available for free.

"We've still got a lot of work to do, but with the Y and the great staff that we have, we're going to pull it off," Reiley said.

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