The kids at Gray Stone Day School in Misenheimer have tennis teams, but they don’t have a tennis court.
Caby Styers, now 17 and a senior, decided during her freshman year that she wanted to change that. After several fundraising efforts, she’s collected $10,000 for the school to use toward a court.
That’s about a seventh of what it would cost, but she says she learned a lot in the process. Besides helping her school toward that goal, Caby says the effort was worth it because, in the fundraising process, she learned a lot about improvising plans, dependability of others and the importance of asking for help.
“I learned the first initial plan won’t always work out,” she said. An adult tennis tournament and donation letters were ideas that came along later that were crucial to her fundraising.
“I also learned you can’t always depend on a group of people,” she said. Caby experienced this when working with people who didn’t have the same drive as she did.
“I probably struggled with that the most. You have to move around that and look at what else you can do,” she said.
And adults can be wiser than kids: “I relied on the advice of a lot of adults.”
Helen Nance, the school’s chief administrative officer, said that because Gray Stone Day is a charter school, it doesn’t receive public funding for sports facilities. The school hasn’t had the extra money to build a court.
Caby, who joined the tennis team as a freshman, was bothered the team had to travel at least a half-hour away to different parks for practices.
“Their tennis teams have gotten better and better, but they have nowhere to play,” said Joe Baile, the tennis director of Ole Porte Racquet Club; he used to be the head coach of the Pfeiffer University tennis teams. Gray Stone Day’s campus is next to Pfeiffer.
“I’d let them use our courts when I could, but we have two teams and play year-round, so it was tough,” he said.
All Gray Stone Day high school students are required to complete a big service project, and for Caby, her choice was obvious.
“As a freshman, I didn’t understand how hard it was going to be,” she said. “Tennis courts are really expensive.”
Caby realized early on she probably wouldn’t raise $70,000, but resolved to try.
To raise the money, Caby organized tennis youth tournaments her freshman and sophomore years. She made T-shirts, got trophies and ran a raffle. She made a website too, but said not many people used it.
She approached local businesses to ask if they’d sponsor the tournament, which for her was the hardest part.
“It made me so uncomfortable,” she said. “I’d ask for the manager and have to give them my pitch, and that was probably the scariest part.”
The tournaments had lukewarm turnouts, so she decided to organize an adult one, which was far more successful. Caby also distributed more than 100 donation letters.
“That’s where I raised the bulk of the $10,000,” she said. “Adults have the money, and they’re much more willing to help.”
Caby said she worked a lot with Baile for guidance.
“She’s just such a hard worker and so mature for her age,” Baile said. “It was easy to work with her ... To even think that big, I was pretty amazed with that.”
Caby has donated the $10,000 to the school in hopes that the ball’s rolling for a new court.
Nance said the money is being set aside for a tennis court fund. “She has a good start for us.”
And wherever she attends college next year, Caby said she’d like to continue with tennis, as long as there’s a court: “Hopefully I’ll be able to play club or intramural tennis – I think I’d like that.”
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