Every year, the City Parks Foundation in New York raises money during the US Open to help fund citywide youth tennis programs. Due to COVID-19, the annual fundraiser couldn't be held and so the foundation is putting on an online auction instead.
The event is usually hosted by Billie Jean King and the living legend had a message to share about showing your support.
"Free sports instruction for children changes lives," King said. "These are the kids who live and breath tennis, who with your support still hope for the chance to make their high school team or earn a college scholarship."
A nonprofit organization, City Parks Foundation has sports, arts, community building and education programs in more than 400 parks, recreation centers and public schools across New York City, reaching over 300,000 people each year.
All of the money raised from the online auction will provide free tennis instruction to over 6,000 children at 38 parks in New York city. The program still ran this summer with limited capacity to adhere to the safety regulations, but the foundation hopes to return in full capacity next year.
Staff at a socially distanced practice in New York.
"We thought a tennis-themed auction would be a new and innovative way to raise funds and awareness for our citywide youth tennis program," said City Parks Foundation Director of Sports, Mike Silverman. "There are some fun and unique opportunities people can bid on, such as playing doubles with Ben Stiller and Hank Azaria, or meeting King and watching the matches from her suite at the 2021 US Open."
Other items include two VIP tickets to the 2021 Tennis Champions Series, courtside tickets for two days at Indian Wells, watching the Miami Open men's final from the Lacoste suite with James Blake and courtside seats to the fourth round of the 2021 US Open.
Though the US Open is very different this year with strict protocols and no fans, one former City Parks Foundation player has been inside the bubble. Tamila Latif-Zade, a 22-year-old from Brooklyn, is a court attendant.
"I have been playing tennis my whole life," she told the New York Times. "I was in the City Parks Foundation program, a public initiative that gives free tennis lessons. I used to play tournaments on the courts next to where the US Open is played."
As a US Open employee for the past five years, Latif-Zade has gotten to see her favorites like Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Roger Federer up close, and has even stood on their arena, Arthur Ashe Stadium. The City Parks Foundation helped her passion for tennis blossom, and get her to where she is today.
The online auction closes on September 16.