Fundraising reigns at spirited ‘King of the Hill’ tourney

Trudie Rainone, Michael Pierce and Este Brashears. PHOTO BY JOSHUA KODIS

Local tennis professionals spent six Thursday evenings serving up for a cause during the 29th annual King of the Hill Tennis Tournament at the Boulevard Village and Tennis Club to benefit the Youth Guidance Mentoring Academy.

Balls were lobbed in good-natured competition as 24 players vied for the coveted King of the Hill title, cheered on by tennis enthusiasts gathered to support their clubs’ professionals and the nonprofit.

Gigi Casapu, the tournament’s founder and director, established the competition to honor his late brother, Jonny, a world-class tennis professional known to love children. Casapu’s selection of Youth Guidance as the beneficiary was a perfect match.

Since its inception 29 years ago, the tournament has raised more than $670,000 for the nonprofit. On the night of the Division Final, the last night of play, Elise Harris, a Youth Guidance participant, was awarded a $1,000 Gigi Casapu Scholarship.

James Van Deinse of the Vero Beach Tennis and Fitness Club took home the King of the Hill title for the third time, with Christian Docter of the Sea Oaks Beach and Tennis Club as runner-up. This earned both players a wild card entry into the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Tournament, a USTA Pro Circuit event held the end of April at the Vero Beach Tennis and Fitness Club at Timber Ridge.

Youth Guidance provides one-on-one and group mentoring programs for at-risk children and young adults ages 6 to 24 from low-income families, and provides them with the skills and resilience needed to navigate life’s challenges and pursue their dreams. They also offer parent aid programs.

In addition to afterschool and summer mentoring and recreational programs, Youth Guidance students participate in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), life skills classes such as cooking, gardening and sewing, and trade and vocational skills training, including woodworking and bicycle repair.

Their vocational skills training programs for young adults ages 17 to 24 are eight-month immersive classes with graduates earning professional welding, HVAC, plumbing, carpentry and electric certificates. The programs are designed to expose mentees to various trade opportunities so that they can earn base-level certifications as an inroad toward future careers.

“This year, we have 16 students who are currently on track to get a 144-hour certificate from the State Department of Education. These 16 students are going to be ready to enter the workforce and get full-time employment with electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and the like,” said Phil Barnes, YG executive director, thanking the crowd.

“This is all possible because of your support.”

In May, they expect to begin reconstruction on their Youth Guidance facility, having successfully completed a $1.5 million capital campaign.

The work being done, said Barnes, will be “a state-of-the-art center for workforce development and mentoring with a commercial kitchen, workshop, multipurpose room, library and tutoring wing, so we’ll have everything we need to continue the work we’re doing with these kids.”

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Photos by Joshua Kodis

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