Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Annual Tennis Day's 30-Year Run May Have Hit Net ; Net: Event Encourages Kids to Meet Police

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Annual Tennis Day's 30-Year Run May Have Hit Net ; Net: Event Encourages Kids to Meet Police

Article excerpt

It was with a tinge of sadness Friday that Joyce Ritchey and Connie Robertson carried out what may have been the final tennis day they will coordinate for inner-city youths in Topeka.

The once-a-year event, held at the Kossover Tennis Center, 2540 S.W. Gage, attracted the usual crowd of around 500 children who are involved in programs at local community centers and the Boys and Girls Clubs.

Counselors from the various community centers were on hand to work with the children, along with members of the United States Tennis Association, which helped sponsor the event.

But after 30 years, the two women agreed the time had come for them to hang it up.

Ritchey is 72 and Robertson is 74, and they said they just don't have the energy required to pull off an event of such a magnitude any more.

"We don't have anybody to take it over," Robertson said. "It'd be great if someone would step forward. I'd help them any way I could. But I'm not going to run it anymore."

The program started in 1984, when Ritchey became concerned about crime in central Topeka. At the time, she lived near S.W. 16th and Washburn, she said.

A lot of the kids came from homes where crime and drug activity were ways of life, she said. And she wanted to do something about it -- something that could help channel the kids' energy into something positive.

At the time, Ritchey's son, Phillip, played tennis for Robertson at Hayden High School. Ritchey approached Robertson to see if she would help with a tennis program for children.

Robertson agreed, and the Holliday Park Kids Club was formed, with tennis a major emphasis.

In the early years, the children had a special day at the Central Park tennis courts in the 1500 block of S.W. Buchanan.

But the courts condition worsened over the years and the crowd of children grew. So the event was moved to the Kossover courts, the center of the city's tennis activity.

Ritchey didn't want to stop with tennis, though. …

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