While the Menlo School boys are out to defend their Central Coast Section and NorCal tennis titles, the Knights are playing for even more this postseason.
Expanding on their effort from last season, Menlo players reached out to a neighbor and CCS foes for Aces4Kidz, a season-long, fund-raising effort to help send youth from under-resourced communities to camp at East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring.
This season, Menlo teammates Lane Leschly, Nathan Safran and Gabriel Morgan enlisted three schools -- Sacred Heart Prep, Bellarmine and Menlo-Atherton -- to also conduct ace-athons and visit with children enrolled at EPATT at Stanford's Taube Stadium. More than 80 players are "serving for the kids."
Sacred Heart Prep coach and former Stanford player Jeff Arons was the founder of EPATT in 1988.
Top-seeded Menlo continued its march toward Friday's section title match with a 7-0 romp over visiting Harker in a CCS quarterfinal. After the the Knights improve to 23-1, several players headed over to EPATT to work with the kids at Stanford at 6 p.m.
"Lane and his Menlo teammates are an example of how athletes should be -- they work hard, compete, earn the respect of their peers and they care about their community," EPATT Executive Director Dave Higaki said. "The Aces4Kidz effort put together by Lane and embraced by his teammates is extraordinary. Because of their direct efforts, EPATT will be able to further our mission.
"I am blown away by what they have done and now with their expanded efforts involving other schools -- speechless!"
Last year, Leschly and his teammates launched Aces4Kidz, which tracks donations per ace. Menlo School served 344 aces and raised over $10,000 for East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring. EPATT supports K-12th grade students from under-resourced communities, utilizing one-on-one tutoring, tennis instruction, and parent coaching to prepare students for a productive future.
The Menlo varsity players were recognized, along with their coach Bill Shine, on court at the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Bank of the West Tournament at Stanford in July. It was the first time a high school team had created a fundraiser to support the kids of EPATT.
Aces4Kidz is nearly 80 percent toward reaching its goal of raising $15,000 this year -- enough to send 20 kids to EPATT's four-week summer program, which includes trips to area museums based on curriculum taught.
EPATT hires elementary school teachers and high school interns to help run summer programs. EPATT offers kids the chance to stay on top of their game so they enter school refreshed and ready to learn.
Similar to a walk-a-thon, each player will get two to three sponsors who are willing to make a pledge per ace served. Pledges can range from 10 cents per ace to $10 and donors can sponsor one team or the whole team. Visit www.aces4kidz.org for more information or to make a pledge.