Return the Serve 2018: A Major Win

Credit: Getty/Chase

The stage was set; with the Art Courts renovation project successfully wrapped just a couple of weeks before, The ACE Project staff and volunteers, along with our partners, friends, and supporters, arrived at Cooper Park on Friday, July 13th to prepare for Return the Serve. Superstitions pushed aside, the excitement was already visible among the adults who helped set up tents, activities, banners, food/drink stations, and seating areas under the hot summer sun. We knew the heat wasn't going to slow down our young participants; in fact, with all the opportunities for refreshment and shade, it was more likely the kids would be running circles around the adults. We kept our cool, though, and when the 200+ kids arrived on site and walked onto the courts, we were ready to make this annual fun day one they wouldn't forget. 

With rackets swinging, tennis balls flying, and gym shoes chasing, the Riverdale/Dolton youth were all smiles, even with the 100 degree heat index. We were happy to see many new faces, both young and not as young, make their way to these beautiful new courts as The ACE Project continues to share the joy of tennis with the community and expand participation. You know you're doing something right when even after 4 hours of activities, the kids still didn't want to leave the courts, asking if they could play just a little longer after the event came to a close. Thanks to the many volunteers who shared in the kids' enthusiasm, Return the Serve 2018 was our biggest year yet in terms of participation, activity, and support. 

Credit: Getty/Chase

Speaking of support, we want to thank the USTA Foundation and Chase for their tremendous assistance. Not only did they provide the financial backing that allowed the event to happen in the first place, representatives from both organizations were on-site to lead tennis activities, face paint, deliver cold water, and join in the celebration. The ACE Project had an opportunity to speak with Jesse Adler, Executive at CAA Sports, and Marissa Hart, Senior Marketing Associate at JPMorgan Chase, about their experience working with our organization.

ACE: What are Chase's philanthropic goals? 

At Chase, we are committed to serving the communities that we are a part of which includes the Return the Serve program and our partnership with The ACE Project.  

ACE: What growth/differences has Chase seen with the youth and community each year of Return of Serve? 

Credit: Getty/Chase

2018 marks the 5th year of the Return the Serve program. The program has reached over 20,000 kids who have been benefitted from additional tennis and education programming. It has been a pleasure watching the kids grow through the program, many are now volunteers who were once participants! In Riverdale in particular, the whole community truly rallies around this event each year and it seems to get bigger and bigger.

ACE: How do you foresee the Arts Courts Initiative benefitting Riverdale and its residents? 

We envision the courts to provide a place for families and future players to play on for generations to come. Our hope is that we can encourage even more children to play the game of tennis and continue to make this park a wonderful place for friends and families to come together.

ACE: What has been your favorite memory so far in working with us? 

We love the collaborative nature, passion and commitment that The ACE Project brings to the program! From the face painting, to the mascots, to the bouncy house this year, it’s always something new and exciting for the kids who are participating and seeing how happy they are to be there really makes it special. We’re excited to continue working with your chapter in the future.

ACE: How do you think our partnership will evolve in the upcoming years?

This year, we were able to expand our Return the Serve program to include the Art Court initiative in five cities, including Riverdale. Also new this year, we’ve increased our grant to the program from $100,000 to $150,000. We look forward to collaborating closely with the USTA Foundation on further opportunities, and The ACE Project in particular.

We are so thankful for all the hard work that went into Return the Serve 2018, and we appreciate the individuals and organizations that made it possible! Please check out the full event gallery by clicking here. Until next year!