Samantha '20 and Matt Singer '22 love to share the joys of tennis with children, and this includes children with special needs. They established and champion Strings4Smiles to fill a void for parents in the Princeton and surrounding communities who are looking for unique ways to engage their children in physical activities. The program is open for children with special needs from ages 7-17. Typically each session is limited to four to six kids to provide optimum teaching and supervision.
"Our motivation for starting Strings4Smiles was twofold," said Sam. "Initially, we wanted to give kids with disabilities the opportunity to experience the joy of tennis - a gift for a lifetime. Secondly, Matt and I volunteered for years at Princeton Special Sports, which does not have a tennis component. Therefore, we decided to create a tennis partnership for kids with special needs. We want to teach these kids that their disability does not define them."
Their "curriculum" encourages social interaction, basic athletic skills and, of course, the love of tennis. It's also a chance for the children to connect with Sam and Matt and their fellow players.
"Some kids can hit five tennis balls in a row, but we want everyone to feel successful with each swing of the racket," said Sam. "We have developed lots of activities that have a wide variety of difficulty. Therefore, everyone can have fun no matter what it is that they are struggling with."
Sam noted that the rewards are numerous: "Not only does the activity help with keeping the body moving, but it can also help build confidence. In addition, most sports require relationship and team building; it doesn’t matter if it’s for a professional or amateur team, or just for fun, the rewards can be the same. Our sports programs, including basketball, baseball, football, soccer and other games, help children with a variety of special needs to grow both athletically and socially in a safe and fun environment. By teaching them tennis skills and showing the kids that they can do it, we hope to build their confidence."