Wheelchair Tennis event is blast for players

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The Walton Foundation’s fourth annual Wheelchair Tennis Championship featured several area athletes eager to spread a message to the area: we are here.

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Larry Keeter, of Charlotte, N.C., hits a backhand shot during the Walton Foundation's fourth annual Wheelchair Tennis Championship held at Newman Tennis Center.  MIKE ADAMS/SPECIAL
MIKE ADAMS/SPECIAL
Larry Keeter, of Charlotte, N.C., hits a backhand shot during the Walton Foundation's fourth annual Wheelchair Tennis Championship held at Newman Tennis Center.

Lisa Maddox, an Aquinas graduate and nine-year military veteran, lost her left leg in 2006 some time after she developed Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. RSD is a rare disorder of the sympathetic nervous system that is characterized by chronic, severe pain.

Maddox, 47, attended West Point and returned to Augusta in February after living in Virginia while attending medical school.

Maddox said she was thrilled to find that one of her favorite hobbies was offered in the area.

“I always wanted to play tennis even before I lost my leg. I enjoyed watching and it just seemed interesting,” she said. “I did it for a year and a half when I lived in Virginia. I took a four year hiatus and started up again not quite a week ago.”

She said the event is meant to inspire people with disabilities to continue living their lives.

“I hope events like this can encourage some people with disabilities to come out and just try it,” Maddox said. “Even if you’re not very good, it doesn’t matter. You are only a failure if you don’t try.”

Vicki Green, the Vice President of Development for the Walton Foundation, said this is the second of four tournaments leading up to the championship.

“The order of the Georgia Wheelchair tennis grand prix is Atlanta, Augusta, McDonough then Rome leading up to the championship in Peachtree City in October,” Green said. “These guys all play in a circuit. We are growing every year and are working to get better.”

In 2012, the Walton Foundation was recognized by the USTA Southern as the number one wheelchair tennis tournament.

“We were amazed because it was only our second year,” Green said. “We have to keep raising the bar and making the tournament better.”

Donald Shapiro has been playing wheelchair tennis for 35 years.

He coaches Walton’s wheelchair tennis clinic every Monday and was ranked as high as third in the USTA men’s wheelchair A singles division in 2012. He currently ranks eighth in the B singles division.

Shapiro said the tournament brings awareness in a way that allows everyone to enjoy themselves.

“We want to grow this tournament as big as we can get it. We just come out here and have a blast,” Shapiro said.

“One of the good things about wheelchair tennis is that it’s one of the only sports that you can play with an able bodied person,” he said. “The only difference is we get two bounces.”

“We try to help anybody with a disability in the CSRA and all of our programs are free,” Green said. “We just want to get the word out that it’s not about a person’s disabilities, but their abilities. We want to make the community aware of what these amazing people can
do.”


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