What started three years ago as the Marcy Tennis Club— a handful of young tennis hopefuls from Marcy Houses, along with a few volunteers— today has grown into a league: 120 kids across four housing developments, including Marcy Houses, Tompkins Houses, Sumner Houses and Lafayette Gardens, all in Central Brooklyn.
North Carolina native McCasland started the Kings County Tennis League in 2010 after he moved to Bed-Stuy and took a job as a forensic scientist with the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office.
The program is completely free, volunteer-run and includes a mentoring component. McCasland, with a few local donations and his team of dedicated volunteers, supply the rackets and balls and even mobile nets for his students.
The growth has been rapid. The students are thriving, showing enormous talent. And recently, they’ve caught the attention and earned a little ink from some major media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and CBS.
However, with an average endowment of about $25,000 a year, they still struggle to grow their financial support base.
“We’re in an interesting period right now,” said McCasland, adding the league is growing much faster than its pocketbook. “We hired a director of development whose applying for grants for us, and we’ve had some success, but not anything huge. So we’re now applying for bigger grants.”
But, McCasland said he wants to focus equally on growing their individual donor support: “We’ve been told that to sustain a healthy non-profit, 75 percent of the support should come through donations. That way it’s a little more stable. If you live or die by a foundation or grant, if the economy collapses, then your non-profit will collapse as well.”
On Thursday, August 15, from 6:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., The Kings County Tennis League will hold its 4th Annual Fundraiser at the Dumbo Loft, located at 155 Water Street in Brooklyn. Tickets are $25 if purchased in advance and $30 at the door.
The event hopes to raise money to renovate the tennis courts at Marcy and Sumner Houses, which are falling into great disrepair. Each court will cost $15,000 - $20,000 to repair. The money also will allow McCasland and the other volunteers to take kids to Arthur Ashe Kids Day.
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, District Leader Robert Cornegy, Jr., and representatives from the United States Tennis League are confirmed to attend.
“We have more and more kids that are returning to the league,” said McCasland. “There are like six kids that are really good— one of our kids won a junior tournament in the Bronx last year— So one thing we would like to create is an elite league. This may mean hiring a professional tennis instructor to give them an opportunity to really excel. But that will take more resources.”
“We hope to get as many people as possible out to the fundraiser. Plus, we are having a silent auction and a few sexy raffle prizes,” he said, rattling off a long list of goodies, including a Nets Basketball tickets in the suite box, U.S. Open tickets, a signed Reginald Federer hat, signed biographies of Venus and Serena and a bunch of gift certificates from Brooklyn and Manhattan restaurants.
For more information on the Kings County Tennis League, visit their website.