Edwardsville - February 27, 2014
A local fund is allowing students with special needs to have the chance to learn tennis for free, thanks to a few dedicated individuals and the facilitation of the Edwardsville Community Foundation (ECF).
This new community support fund, called Mitch & Friends, was established by Edwardsville High School tennis coach Dave Lipe and Kevin McGinnis, the father of the fund’s namesake, Mitch.

“I have known Mitch, who has autism, through coaching his twin sister Morgan throughout her high school career,” Lipe said. “Mitch has been my student manager on the both the boys and girls tennis teams at the high school for four years. At first, he was helping out the teams by getting the courts ready for practice, but then we began playing tennis together, and he loved it. Soon enough, we began playing tennis on a regular basis before practice.”

From there, all of the students on the team began hitting balls with Mitch every day. Shortly after, Lipe invited some of Mitch’s friends from school to enjoy tennis as well. From there Mitch & Friends was formed.

Initially, the fund was formed to revolve around a night of tennis that is held during the men’s pro tournament in August and was to be a one-night clinic for kids with special needs.

“The fund has actually morphed into an official non-profit whose aim is to provide free opportunities for kids with special needs to play tennis,” Lipe said.

When Mitch’s grandfather, friend to Coach Lipe, passed away in 2013, many donated money to the fund in his memory, which helped propel the fund to become an actual non-profit organization. The ECF also helps facilitate donations to the organization, providing others an easy avenue to give any kind of donation they may wish.”

“I think this is a fantastic organization, and a lot of people involved in the tennis community show a lot of passion; I’m very thankful for it,” said McGinnis. “This organization gives children a wonderful opportunity to learn the game of tennis and gives them a chance to bond with one another.”

Mitch & Friends Fund strives to put on one to two large events annually.

Last year, the group held The Futures tournament here in August. Eighteen children with special needs learned from 18 professionals for one-on-one teaching. “We hope to do this again this year,” said McGinnis.

“While we aren’t working with as many kids as we’d eventually like to coach, we are in the very early stages of organizational development,” said Lipe.” We have a great board, and we are optimistically moving forward and hoping to grow!”

“We are grateful to the community for their kind donations and to the ECF for their help in this endeavor as well,” said McGinnis.

The Edwardsville Community Foundation, established in 1997, is a non-profit organization that receives, manages, and distributes tax-deductible charitable contributions for the benefit of the greater Edwardsville area communities and its residents.

The Edwardsville Community Foundation is dedicated to the enhancement and betterment of the quality of life in the communities of Edwardsville, Glen Carbon, Hamel, Moro, Dorsey, Worden, and the surrounding areas.

For more information or to donate to Mitch & Friends Fund, please call (855) 464-3223 or visit www.geacf.org.