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Colorado girl uses birthday to give gift of tennis to others

November 24, 2014 09:06 AM
 
 

 

By McCarton Ackerman, USTA.com

Most kids have little difficulty thinking about what gifts they want for their birthdays. But all one little girl from Colorado wanted was to give the gift of tennis to others.

Nine-year-old Kira Kraatz has been collecting new youth tennis balls and used tennis racquets for her last two birthdays. (Her birthday falls in October.) The items were then donated to Racquets For All, the equipment collection and sharing arm of the Colorado Youth Tennis Foundation in Denver, and so far more than 300 balls and 20 racquets have been donated to the Foundation.

She’s already thinking about her birthday next year, saying she hopes to collect 175 racquets to donate to the Foundation.

“I love helping people and love playing tennis,” said Kraatz. “My mom got me into tennis when I was 3 and I’ve been playing ever since.”

Kira was born in Kazakhstan and adopted at seven months old by Nancy Kraatz. Not only did Nancy get Kira into tennis, but she also stressed the importance of helping others from an early age. It is a lesson that stuck. In addition to the ball and racquet donations, Kira has set up lemonade stands to help raise money for causes including wildfire victims and those affected by the tragic movie theater shooting in Aurora, in 2012.

“She’s always had that mentality,” said Nancy. “This campaign was entirely her idea. She’s always trying to help people.”

It is a campaign that takes on a special relevance this time of year, with the approaching holiday season and the continued growth of Colorado Gives Day, a local day for giving thanks and supporting worthy causes that this year falls on Dec. 9, following the shopping days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

To help collect more racquets and balls this year, Kira also made a Facebook commercial that was posted to Nancy’s page. The precocious girl already takes acting lessons and has an agent in Los Angeles, so she said being in front of the camera came naturally to her.

“The commercial was my idea. I really loved doing it,” Kira said. “Getting to hit a serve at the end was probably my favorite part of it.”

However, Kira is also hoping to be in front of the camera at tennis tournaments in the future. She fell in love with the sport from when she first picked up a racquet and plays whenever she has the chance.

“She plays until it gets dark and just loves the sport,” said Nancy. “She just has a real passion for it and is extremely athletic. We do a lot of sports together because that’s the way I grew up.”

Part of that passion came from meeting American pro Christina McHale at the former Emirates Airline US Open Series event in San Diego. She and Nancy stayed at the same hotel as McHale during the tournament, and on their final day there, McHale brought Kira down to the court after her practice session and talked with her.

“That had a huge impact on Kira,” said Nancy. “Her dream now is to play in the US Open.”

But for now, Kira is determined to keep her campaign of donating racquets and balls going well beyond her birthday. She and Nancy said that they will continue to take donations from anyone throughout the year.

“She put my phone number on the Facebook video! So that’s probably the best way to get in touch if anyone is interested in donating,” said Nancy. “She’s always trying to figure out ways to get more racquets and balls, so I really do think this is something that could expand and reach a lot of people.”

***

Tuesday, Dec. 9, is Colorado Gives Day To support the Colorado Youth Tennis Foundation, which utilizes tennis and education to build better lives and brighter futures for those in need, visit the Colorado Gives Day website and schedule your donation today.

 

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