Man Takes Over Tennis Program That Helped Him As a Child After Mentor Passes Away

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Playing Today's Hero: Program Provides Free Tennis + Academics For Inner City Kids In LA
Today's Hero: Program Provides Free Tennis + Academics For Inner City Kids In LA Aired January 14, 2020

We like to take the time to highlight the work that local heroes do to make a difference in their community. Today's hero is Marty Woods, Executive Director of the Pete Brown Junior Tennis Program in Los Angeles, California, which offers free year-round tennis and academic support.

"This program is mainly for inner city, underserved minority children," Marty says. "There's gangs in the area, there's rival gangs in the area, so we provide a safe haven for the kids. We never turn any kids away."

Everything in the program, from the coaching and equipment to the shoes and attire, is free for the kids.

"Of course, we don't have the funds to go out and pay coaches, so these coaches volunteer their time and we rely on donations from good-hearted people who want to make an impact in our community," Marty explains. Local professionals, teachers and professors from nearby colleges like the University of Southern California (USC) also volunteer to help the kids with academic tutoring.

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"I was once one of these kids," Marty says. "I was 6 years old, I grew up fatherless in that community, and what got us was [my mentor and coach] Pete Brown said, 'You want to learn how to play the sport of tennis? You get a free tennis racquet.' Once we saw that, our eyes lit up and the next week we were on the tennis court."

Unfortunately, in 2009, Pete passed away and Marty says there was a void left in the community. "Of course, I was 100 percent in to help and give back to the same program that helped me get to where I am today," he says.

Marty has a full-time job and a family to support on top of running the tennis program, but it remains something he is extremely passionate about. 

"In many ways, this program is more than just teaching kids tennis," Marty says. "It's about developing kids in this community into productive members of society."

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One of Marty's goals this year is to help the kids eat healthy and help their families prepare healthy meals. He says they've been lucky enough to team up with a talented young chef who's creating a menu that is affordable and healthy for the kids in their community. (Hi, Chef Roman!) 

We invited Marty on our show to share his story and chat with Rach about the inspiring work he's doing in his community. 

And Rachael had not one, but two surprises in store for Marty. First, a special video message from the most successful doubles players of all time, brothers Mike and Bob Bryan. The Bryan Bros. Foundation has donated $1.5 million to deserving kids programs in Southern California and across the country in the last nine years. And as for surprise number two, the Bryan brothers are donating $10,000 to the Pete Brown Junior Tennis Program — in the form of a giant check!

See Marty's touching reaction to the donation in the video above.

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