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Jamaica tennis benefit pits kids against celebs

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With pro tennis players at the U.S. Open competition just a few miles away in Flushing, hundreds of southeast Queens children got their own chance to enjoy the courts Saturday at a celebrity-studded event near York College.

Sponsored by the National Academy of Junior Tennis and Youth Development, the sixth annual Youth & Tennis “Kids Day” benefit drew large crowds of children and their parents to the York College tennis courts in Jamaica.

Loud music, lots of food and clowns were on hand to help entertain the crowd, which sat in rows of folding chairs set up around the Roy Wilkins tennis courts to watch celebrities play tennis with children from the National Academy.

While celebrity-watching was a regular part of the two-week-long U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, a few also turned out at the Kids Day event.

A number of well-known faces were on hand for the event, including former St. John’s University basketball star Walter Berry, singer Cherokee and Cheryl Washington from Fox 5’s Good Day New York morning show.

Shirley Huntley, member of School Board 28 in Jamaica, praised the event.

“I support youth in tennis,” she said. “I think it’s very good for the community and the parents.”

Dr. Belinda Johnston-Briggs, whose husband is the director of the academy, said “today is a kids day and basically it’s an annual event done to raise funds for youth in tennis.”

Johnston-Briggs said there are about 1,200 children in the National Academy program, which practices at different sites around Queens, including the Roy Wilkins Tennis Center in Jamaica, York College, and Liberty and Cunningham parks.

While the children on hand ran gleefully from food tables filled with hot dogs, cotton candy and soda to clowns who did face painting, it was the tennis which took center stage.

Berry talked and laughed with Cherokee on the tennis court as the pair hit tennis balls back and forth with a pair of young girls. A crowd of children lined the court to enjoy the action.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:23 pm, October 10, 2011
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