When more than a dozen advanced and intermediate tennis players competed last weekend, championships and titles were the furthest thing from their minds.
These men and women, many professionals from around the cities and others religious leaders, were participating in the first of what a youth charity hopes to be a state-sweeping series of games to raises awareness of the need about the country’s foster system.
One-Church-One-Child hopes to host more matches from Miami to Orlando and back to Tallahassee in the coming months. Their goal: teach the communities about the importance of giving thousands of children stable homes and to inspire each church in the state to adopt at least one child.
“We are going to take this across the state,” OCOC Deputy Director Rev. Al Williams told The FAMUAN Online. “The great thing about this event is that it is community awareness… [that] is contagious.”
A January 2010 report from child advocates Children’s Defense – www.childrensdefense.org – said that 26,363 children were in Florida’s
foster care system, with a high likelihood of adoption after 24 months. OCOC believes this is too long. They challenge the state’s churches –
of which there are 8,728, according to online director AllChurches.com – to step in.
“We’re concerned with kids in foster care; we are looking for families,” said organizer Robert Blake.
Director of Guardian Ad Litem Alan Abramowitz called on the state’s faithful to take on the moral challenge of turning their communities into
the families that children need. “We all know that every child would say, ‘I want a family,'” Abramowitz said.
Local tennis player Tom Bass said of the games, “I came to support the kids,” saying that winning the tournament would be “a bonus, but we’re here to have fun.”
OCOC also hosted tennis clinics for some of the cities many young adolescents and pre-teen children in the hopes of keeping them active
and motivated. Zane Hood, an OCOC volunteer, led Saturday’s clinics. “What we’re trying to do is get them interested in tennis… get them involved in sports that aren’t traditional.”
Hood said the plan was to host follow-up tennis clinics at community centers to keep children playing the sport.