Barhite: Sylvania boys benefit from Zepf tennis programWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | email@example.com
Trish Shaffer never worries about receiving a call to pick up her boys when they are participating in a Zepf Center program.
She knows if her adoptive sons – both suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome – have a meltdown or get over-stimulated the behavioral health staff knows what to do.
She also likes that both boys, Zach and Nick, get to try activities they might never get to experience.
One of those is playing tennis. Zach, 10, suffers from depth perception problems so any sport that incorporates small balls is not good for him.
But because the Zepf Center takes that into consideration, he, too, can enjoy a sport like tennis.
The Zepf Center just finished its second week of the Ten and Under Tennis Program – Serving Up Wellness and Recovery at Jermain Park.
The program is possible because of grants from the Midwest Youth Tennis & Education Foundation, the Northwest Ohio Tennis Association and the USTA/Midwest.
Zepf Center CEO Jennifer Moses said tennis is an expensive sport that many children don’t get to experience because of equipment and training costs. One of the reasons the USTA is supporting the Ten and Under Tennis Program is because it wants to diversify the sport, she said.
The program is open to kids 7-10 years old from middle-lower income families who are suffering from a behavioral health problem. Both Zach and Nick are on Medicaid as a secondary insurance, which is why they get to enjoy the benefits of the Zepf Center.
“There is a bundle of resources at Zepf and we can’t be more grateful,” Shaffer said.
In addition to learning a new sport, the tennis program is designed to teach social skills that come with learning and competing in tennis. It is coupled with wellness education, led by Zepf staff, to help combat the growing epidemic of childhood obesity, Moses said.
“There is a push in Ohio and the nation to take care of the whole person,” she said.
Shaffer and her husband never expected to need such services. The couple had two older children when they decided to adopt because of her Type 1 diabetes. Zach arrived first, but they weren’t sure the adoption would go through. When they were offered a chance to adopt Nick, they gladly took him. The day they brought him home from the hospital, Zach’s mom decided to talk adoption.
The first few years were easy. Then the boys began to display sensory and attention issues. They were eventually diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome.
The boys learn in a traditional classroom in Sylvania Schools, but meet regularly with doctors at the Zepf Center. They also participate in many of the programs offered through the nonprofit. The tennis program has been one of their favorites.
“They were very, very excited. It is nice for them to experience something different,” Shaffer said. “They came home and said, ‘We can bring our own tennis rackets, but we don’t have to.’”