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Tennis Canada celebrates ‘Big’ partnership with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Toronto – Toronto


Toronto is getting a taste of tennis at its highest level with this years’ National Bank Open. The event pits the best of the best against each other. And for some young people at the tournament, they are getting the athletes’ experience after a new partnership with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Toronto and Tennis Canada.

Eleven-year-old Daniel Halfrose was one of those kids. It was the first time he had been to a sports competition of this scale.

“I feel very happy and I’m very blessed with this opportunity,” says Halfrose

‘Littles’ as they’re called in the program are getting opportunities and mentorships that could last a lifetime. All thanks to a collaboration between BBBS of Toronto and Tennis Canada.

Eva Havaris with the organization says they wanted to create an opportunity for kids with a goal to increase participation through safe, equitable and positive experiences.

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“We taught them to play, we gave them equipment. We wanted to show them this is really accessible,” says Havaris, the VP of Tennis Participation and Partnerships.

Tennis Canada invited the kids to an event earlier this year to help introduce them to the sport. And now at the National Bank Open, they had a chance to celebrate that partnership and what that means to them.

“Today was to celebrate that, host them up in a chairs lounge, bring them to the pro tennis event and just keep that inspiration going,” she said.

Halfrose was one of 30 ‘littles’ that signed up for the event. He and his mentor had the chance to flip the coin for the start of the match. He says having this opportunity is amazing as he didn’t really have a role model growing up.

Tennis Canada is hoping to serve up the chance of a lifetime for kids in underserved communities. The organization is now partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto to help inspire more people to play tennis.

Tennis Canada

“I didn’t really grow up with my dad and I didn’t have any siblings. So it’s nice I have someone I can talk to and have fun,” says Halfrose.

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“Everyone was cheering them on from the suite,” says Kelley Stills with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto. “I think it’s going to be something Daniel will be talking about for a really long time.”

He was matched up with 28-year-old Scarborough resident, Rohit Kulkarni for his ‘Big Brother’. The ‘Big’ as the mentors are called, says the whole program has been quite rewarding to see how the kids react to the event.

“It just makes me so happy to see that he has these opportunities that probably I didn’t have when I was his age,” says Kulkarni.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto helps connect young people who may be facing adversity with an adult mentor. Through these friendships, the program is meant to inspire the ‘littles’ and give them confidence for their future. Still says for some of these kids, even the chance to attend an event like the National Bank Open is a great opportunity.

“For all of our ‘bigs’ and ‘littles’ on site, it’s actually their first National Bank Open, and for a lot of them, it’s their very first live sporting experience,” she said.

“We’re trying to expose them to something that’s different than what they would normally be exposed to in their life.”

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Officials say this partnership gives kids an opportunity to grow — and aspiring tennis players a place to build their skills.

“If they have the push, the support, the resources to be great. We want them to be part of our sport,” says Havaris.

“If we can show them and give them the equipment that it’s possible to take up this sport, it’s possible to try. And if the next Felix comes out of this group, how thrilling would that be for Tennis Canada.”

Following the competition, the partners will now work through a number of activities including the BBBS Annual Big Night Out Fundraiser and teaming up for an annual summer tournament as well.



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