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Tennis players score for youth nonprofit

Ashland Tennis Club members Sascha Wells, left and Cian O’Neil pose with Maddie Fournier of The Maslow Project after dropping off a donation raised during a benefit event last month. (Submitted photo)
Members of the Ashland Tennis Club garnered nearly $9,000 for The Maslow Project through a ‘hit-a-thon’ in early March

A night of tennis rallies from a community event sponsored by some youth athletes in Ashland resulted in an almost $9,000 donation to The Maslow Project, a local nonprofit aimed at helping disadvantaged youth.

Maddie Fournier, community engagement specialist with the Medford-based organization, announced the donation this week. She said the money garnered by members of The Ascension Project — an effort meant to shape young athletes into leaders — would expand the nonprofit’s services.

“When the community comes together and provides this support — especially a donation as large as this — it shows us how important we really are and how supported we are in our community,” Fournier said. “Especially when it’s youth like the Ashland Tennis Club supporting other youth, it’s hugely impactful and it shows our youth clients that they’re supported by their local peers. It’s amazing.”

Tennis club members Sascha Wells and Cian O’Neil were the catalysts behind the 90-minute “hit-a-thon.” Wells said she heard about The Maslow Project through her mother and credited the nonprofit as being “an amazing organization” for focusing on “empowering homeless youth.”

O’Neil had praise for The Maslow Project, too.

“We love what they’re doing and that they’re in our valley. We wanted to help support them in any way we can,” he said.

In the weeks before the fundraising event, Wells and O’Neil had been building additional support, working to collect pledges or lump-sum donations.

When all was said and done, the money raised was “definitely a bigger number than we were all expecting,” according to Wells.

O’Neil added, “we didn’t know that we actually did that and a group of kids could have the ability to help other kids like this.”

“It was just great for our team to realize that even though we’re just kids, we have the power and capability to help other kids in our community — and we can do that through playing tennis and doing what we love,” Wells said.

Fournier noted that Wells and other youth tennis players approached her with the idea to do a “hit-a-thon,” and she was particularly impressed they weren’t pitching it just to fulfill a course credit.

“They just genuinely wanted to help,” Fournier said. “I said, ‘That’s great. Let me know how we can help,’ and they really just took the reins and did everything themselves. When they told me it was a $9,000 donation, I was so surprised, shocked and happy.”

With 75% of its clients identifying as youth (the average age is 11 years old), the Maslow Project provides case management, educational support, basic needs and “other stabilizing and low-barrier services to help youth and families reach stability,” according to Fournier.

“The economy and the climate for fundraising is always a challenge, and so when we have local support like this, it really is a huge surprise and benefit to our providing of services,” she said.

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.