Student athletes know all too well about the struggle of maintaining mental health.
West Ranch tennis players Ethan Park, Kaden Sasaki and Arav Shah will host a charity tennis tournament on Saturday, Sept. 9. All proceeds will be donated to the JED Foundation, a nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide in teens and young adults.
Park got the idea of a fundraiser earlier this summer after a tragic summer for his family.
“I thought of doing this event back in early June this year because of two devastating losses to my family due to suicide,” Park wrote in an email. “As a 16-year-old, it was too much for me to bear, and I never thought something like this would ever happen to us. It was most likely one of the darkest periods of my life, and also my family and cousins. We knew this was something that we would never get over, but we would have to live with this for the rest of our lives.”
Park’s parents encouraged him to find a fundraiser to spread awareness. At first the idea was met with resistance but eventually Park realized the importance of spreading awareness on an important issue that scarred his family.
“Since I play tennis, I realized it was a perfect opportunity to host the tournament fundraiser at our high school’s tennis courts,” Park wrote. “The organization we are donating to is the JED Foundation and the reason we chose that was because it speaks the perfect message of emotional health protection and suicide prevention.”
Park hopes to see a strong turnout but is also looking forward to seeing his community talk about this issue.
“What I am hoping to see at the event is a positive atmosphere of a community of people connected and taught about mental health. While everyone who participates will be playing, I hope they remember the important message we are trying to spread. Unfortunately, there are many people out there who are silently struggling with depression and anxiety alone, which is why this tournament needs to be hosted.”
The hosting Wildcats will also be joined by tennis coach and marriage/family therapist in training, Dustin Kua, who will talk with participants about mental health and suicide prior to the tournament.
While all proceeds will be donated to JED, Park, Sasaki and Shah will all donate out of their pockets for actual prizes for contestants. There will be a raffle for a $50 Amazon gift card, with other gift cards being given out to the winning team and most enthusiastic team.
Participants will meet at the West Ranch tennis courts prior to 10 a.m. and be provided with food, drinks and tennis balls. The tournament has already raised over $3,000 but there’s still time to sign up for $20 a team.
Park will hope to raise as much as possible at the tournament but this may be just the beginning of his mental health advocacy story.
“Like many others, I was not really involved with mental health awareness,” Park added. “But I am now fully committed to supporting mental health awareness and becoming an advocate for this cause. I hope to organize many more tennis tournaments later in the future.”
For more information on the JED Foundation visit jedfoundation.crowdchange.co/33971.