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No downturn for this event

Annual Jensen-Schmidt special-needs event at Burbank Tennis Center continues to thrive despite tough times.

June 29, 2012|By Jeff Tully, jeff.tully@latimes.com
(Raul Roa staff potographer )

With the economy still struggling, Vince Schmidt has seen how some businesses and corporations have scaled back or stopped their donations to charitable organizations.

Luckily, sponsors have seen the value and viability of the organization Schmidt helped establish, the Jensen-Schmidt Tennis Academy for Special Needs Individuals, which has been able to thrive despite the tough times.

"A great example of that is one of our corporate sponsors was going through bankruptcy and they had to step aside," Schmidt said. "One of their big rivals contacted us and said 'We've been trying to talk to you about coming in and being a sponsor for five years.' So they stepped up and came through for us.

"We have companies that have a great allegiance to us. Even through the economy is still kind of rough right now; they see enough value in what we do to still want to be a part of it."

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For the eighth year, the Burbank Tennis Center hosted an installment of the academy in a three-day event Monday through Wednesday that featured 100 participants who ranged from from young children to older adults. It was one of 11 stops the academy will make across the nation this year.

Former French Open doubles champions Luke and Murphy Jensen teamed up with Schmidt, a tennis professional, to form the organization. Schmidt has been a tennis pro in the St. Louis area for nearly two decades, working with youth and adults. Over the years, he has worked at the prestigious Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, as well as with Assn. of Tennis Professionals and World Tennis Assn. tour players and Special Olympics athletes.

The academy was established and designed to meet the sport-specific needs of children and adults with special needs. Along with tennis instruction, athletes learned physical training and got the opportunity to take part in games and other activities.

Children and adults with Down syndrome and other afflictions took part in the academy for free. Equipment, food and refreshments were also provided at no cost.

With a trained staff of instructors, academy coaches teach athletes through motivational exercises and positive reinforcement. The academy boasts that by playing tennis, individuals with special needs can enhance their physical conditioning as well as their social and mental abilities.

The ability for the athletes to attend at no cost was provided by the Burbank-based Greenlight Foundation. Under the direction of Bill Greene, the organization has sponsored the local event all eight years.

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