'Aces for Autism' event to fund after school scholarships
By Chris Fish
INDIAN HARBOUR BEACH - The Florida Beer Company Pro Tennis Tournament, held in June at the Kiwi Tennis Club in Indian Harbour Beach, netted $35,000 for the Scott Center for Autism Treatment of Florida Tech.
"The money goes directly to a specific program called "Aces for Autism'," said Colleen Middlebrooks, director of community relations for the Scott Center for Autism Treatment.
Aces for Autism is a social skills program held after school for autistic children, developed by Florida Tech head men's and women's tennis coach Bill Macom.
"I started (the organization) maybe three or four years ago. Everything has gone by so quickly," Coach Macom said. "I started it ,at first, to get my girls to serve better. I told them I would donate a dollar to the Scott Center for every ace they would hit."
In tennis, an ace is a legal serve that is not touched by the receiver, winning the point for the server.
Ms. Middlebrooks said the money going to the Aces for Autism program is for scholarship money for local children to be able to attend the social skills program.
The program will run from Sept. 11 through Nov. 15 on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school, Ms. Middlebrooks said. There will also be an open house Aug. 25 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Scott Center to register potential members.
The tournament hosted numerous professionals from throughout the world, following a series of qualification matches. The players with the highest rankings earned a spot in the tournament.
Coach Macom said he hopes the tournament becomes an annual event for the autism program. He said the tournament attracted a large number of players this year, possibly indicating future success for the event.
"Hopefully, this will become an annual event with the men's tournament," he said. "The Kiwi Tennis Club is one of the best venues for a lower tier event. Players love the customer service they get."
During the tournament, an Aces for Autism free tennis clinic was held for 40 families with children on the autism spectrum, with ages ranging from 5-14.
"It was a really great day. So many kids who have never picked up a racket really enjoyed it," Ms. Middlebrooks said. "Local pros and all the different clubs came to help. It was a nice mix of people from all over the community."
Ryan Jones, the athletic communications director at Florida Tech, said he is proud of the work Coach Macom does with the autism program.
"Coach Macom does such a tremendous job with the people at the Scott Center," he said. "They have such a strong commitment to building a program."
Ms. Middlebrooks said a lot of the success for the tournament could not have been accomplished without the help of their sponsors, including the Florida Beer Company.
Coach Macom also added he was proud of the number of volunteers at the event and the work they did.
"I took a couple of turns collecting money. People would donate when they walked in the door," he said. "We also had a booth set up with information on the Aces for Autism program and the Scott Center. All our volunteers (who helped out) were unbelievable."
For more information about the Scott Center for Autism Treatment, visit www.thescottcenter.org.