This marks the fifth year that Beth Dammeyer has volunteered for the Wounded Warrior Tennis Camp. That, in our eyes, deserves a high-five.
“The amazing part about this program is that it gives these warriors a chance to recover emotionally and physically,” Dammeyer said.
It’s an ace of an endeavor and thanks to volunteers like Dammeyer the national camp is returning for its eighth year, May 6 to May 9, at the Balboa Tennis Club.
More than 50 veterans will be flown in and put up — all expenses paid — as they are introduced to tennis. It not only helps these men and women get moving, but it often moves them from a dark place.
“You see a transformation like that all the time,” said Dammeyer, a Carmel Valley resident who plays out of the San Dieguito Tennis Club in Encinitas. “It’s so amazing for people to build up their courage to travel here because some of them have post-traumatic stress disorder or they have wheelchairs and care providers — it’s a big deal for them to attend. But they want to feel better. Although they don’t know what to expect so they are trusting us with their well-being.”
It’s Dammeyer’s exposure to the military which has drawn her to help others through tennis. One of her grandfathers was a World War II hero and the other a Purple Heart recipient. Her brother also served his nation.
“This really struck a chord with me,” Dammeyer said.
So she struck up a conversation one Tuesday when watching the military personnel play tennis during a weekly clinic at Balboa. Dammeyer’s offer to help segue into her joining the eight-person steering committee to put on the national event.
“I saw the need for fundraising because we are a self-supported, grass-roots organization,” she said. “I put the word out and the tennis community in North County has been amazing.”
For two years Dammeyer held events at Rancho Santa Fe’s Morgan Golf Resort, collecting north of $7,000. This year she worked her magic at the San Dieguito Tennis Club and collected the same amount of much-needed cash, with more than 40 players taking part.
“We’re not affiliated with the national Wounded Warriors organization,” she said. “Instead we operate thanks to donations from the tennis community that embraces the opportunity to support our veterans through the game of tennis.”
It’s a hug which goes both ways.
“Thank you just isn’t enough to say for accepting me into your program,” said a military tennis player who wished to stay anonymous. “Moving forward can be so difficult with PTSD and severe depression. Your camp made me laugh and live again.”
There are plenty of smiles, on and off the court, with tennis bringing out the best in the best our nation has to offer.
“The positive feedback we have received from past camp participants has been overwhelming,” said Steve Kappes, the San Diego District Tennis Association’s director of military outreach. “Many participants have told us that the sport of tennis has changed their lives for the better, and in some cases, has saved their lives.”
Wow, all because of a fuzzy yellow ball and the caring actions of those that play tennis on a regular basis.
It’s people like Dammeyer, her co-members at San Dieguito, and Steve Leffler at Rancho Penasquitos Tennis Club, that do the heavy lifting to make the Wounded Warrior Tennis Camp a hit.
Want to help and why wouldn’t you? Donations are accepted at sdwoundedwarriortennis.org/donate.html.
It’s easy to let your fingers type it in so you can pitch in. But only after those same digits give Dammeyer and crew a high-five.