First Serve- Changing Lives
By Anya Millard, 6th Grade, Eagle Arts Academy
Everyone deserves a chance to be happy. There are many kids out there who live in bad communities or kids whose parents cannot afford much. That is not all, but kids deserve a chance to try new things most other kids can do. First Serve is an organization that teaches underprivileged kids sports and life skills. They teach kids right and wrong and let them have fun by playing sports. They take kids from bad neighborhoods, so they can be happy and play sports such as basketball, soccer and tennis. They also teach kids life skills such as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Not only that, but they feed the kids too.
We talked to the CEO of the organization Sonny Maken and the president of the Board of Directors Paul Van der Grift. They are both an inspiration and told us many things about First Serve. Sonny is not only the CEO but a father, to an 11-year-old daughter Abigail Maken. One important thing he said was, “You need to understand the language of power.” This organization is an afterschool program. For other kids they also started a peer program and are given scholarships. This is a terrific opportunity for older kids and not just underprivileged ones. First Serve also loves the help of other volunteers and volunteers love to help them too. That is why 70% of the organization is composed of volunteers. Only 30% are staff. You can volunteer too! They have 10 sites in Florida and are going to expand and get at least 3 more sites this year. They already have 450 kids enrolled in First Serve. They are going to expand and soon there will be around 600 kids.
Of course, this is not cheap. First Serve raises money in many ways. They raise money from donations, events and company sponsorships. They collect about $700,000 per year. First Serve does not care about profits; they care about the kids. Kids are their inspiration. Sonny Maken also said, “The main premise [of First Serve] is that you are not poor for lack of opportunity, you are poor because of a lack of awareness.” First Serve has been around for 20 years. Here is a fun fact: First Serve was named “Tennis Pals” before it was called First Serve.
Sonny Maken also gave us some advice on running a company. He told us to get ready to work hard, find people who believe what you believe and to build relationships with people.
Do you want to help change someone’s life and make a kid happy? You can donate money, shoes, clothes and equipment for the sports, like basketball, soccer and tennis that they need. Or for the activities that they do. You can help kids in your community and give them a chance to be happy. You can give kids the opportunity to be someone and maybe one day they will be saving lives, too. Do a good thing and make a difference in someone’s life. Like the old Jewish saying “if you save a life, you save the world.”