For the love of tennis

GROSSE POINT FARMS. Mich.—There’s nothing in the world 14-year-old TJ Dulac enjoys more than playing tennis, juggling a ball, watching it be crunched and spun back and forth between two or four players on a perfectly smooth court. The joy is so pure, this Grosse Pointe Farms Boy Scout is collecting and refurbishing 50 plus racquets to help Detroit kids enjoy that same thrill.

“I want to make a better tennis experience for city kids, this is the biggest project I’ve ever done,” said Dulac, who calls his project, “Serve it forward.”

Dulac finished his 8th-grade year undefeated in singles competitions at St. Paul on the Lake Catholic School in Grosse Pointe. He plays with the U.S. Tennis Association tournaments and hopes for varsity grade at University Liggett School in fall. Now he is helping the fledgling Palmer Park Tennis Academy, a service of the nonprofit People for Palmer Park, serve 50 youth.

Tennis classes held in lighted courts in Palmer Park will start June 18 and run 10 weeks. Dulac plans to drop off his bountiful racquet collection to Leonora King, director of the tennis academy, on the day instruction starts.

“I’m impressed by TJ’s maturity. He is intelligent, very articulate, very focused, and a good tennis player,” King said. Participants from low and middle income families are enrolled in the Palmer Park program. “I expect all the racquets we get will be used because many of the parents are testing the waters, waiting to see if their children adapt to the sport.”

The racquet endeavor started with a conversation between Dulac and his coach, Dimitri Diaknov, who works out of the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club about how to help less fortunate kids gain the educational and athletic outcomes one young man achieved.

“Tennis is unbelievable for kids,” Diaknov said. “You’re usually out there alone on the court, there’s no coaching. You need determination, perseverance, problem solving, patience and focus to get the job done – and of course, these are all aspects needed in every day normal life.”

Diaknov pledged to help by placing a racquet donation box at the yacht club and donating use of its pro shop so Dulac could use the stringing machine and tools to refurbish racquets he acquired. Other scouts and tennis team members are helping him with his quest. They helped Dulac put up donation boxes at East Side Tennis and Fitness, Grosse Pointe Hunt Club, Grosse Pointe Club and Wimbledon Racquet Club.

The bigger goal Dulac plans to serve up is to become an Eagle Scout, an award only five percent of all Boy Scouts achieve, according to the organization’s website. In 2012, 57,976 Boy Scouts achieved this honor out of approximately 2.6 million scouts in America.

“TJ and every Eagle Scout candidate deserve a lot of credit for taking on these projects and making the world a better place,” said Kurt Newman, assistant scoutmaster of Troop 96 in Grosse Pointe Farms.

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