Tennis pro Lenny Simpson says his faith motivates him to serve at-risk kids

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Lenny Simpson (Photo credit: One Love Tennis Program).

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Despite suffering a stroke in March, retired professional tennis player Lenward “Lenny” Simpson continues to serve the Wilmington community where he grew up as boy.

In an interview with WWAY’s Good Morning Carolina, Simpson says recovery from his stroke nine months ago has been slow but positive.

“I’m thrilled to be with you, all of you this morning, through the miracle of God as I’m talking to you this morning,” he said. “We’re thrilled to be here.”

Simpson’s love for tennis started at the age of 5 when he heard balls on the late Dr. Hubert Eaton’s tennis court located next door to his home.

By the age of 9, Simpson began traveling on the tennis circuit throughout the U.S. He was trained and coached by tennis greats Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe. Simpson became one of the youngest males in history to play in the U.S. Open Championships at age 15 and played 3 times.

He was inducted into the N.C. Tennis Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Greater Wilmington Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.

In 2013, Simpson returned to Wilmington with the goal of making a difference in the lives of others through tennis and education. He founded a nonprofit called “One Love Tennis Program” to teach tennis to anyone who wanted to pick up a racquet and learn the sport.

“Our goal is to reach at-risk kids throughout the Wilmington area,” said Lenny Simpson’s wife, Joann. “He was determined to make sure any child who wanted to play tennis would have that opportunity.”

The Simpsons started the nonprofit by filling their vehicle with rackets and balls.

“He’s transformed it (the nonprofit) over these years with the help of many people here in the Wilmington area,” Joann Simpson said.

In addition to year round tennis and education programs, the Simpsons also organize food drives for many underserved communities and their seventh event will be held this weekend.

“We are encouraging everyone that would like to be a part of it to donate food, non-perishables,” she said. “We have people throughout the community that drop off food for us, and we’re asking that people pack a bag to feed a family for a day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

Food donations may be dropped off at 1406 Orange Street in Wilmington.

On Saturday, Dec. 18, the Simpsons and a number of volunteers will sort and distribute the food donations.

In October, Lenny Simpson, celebrated his 73rd birthday. When asked what he hopes his legacy will be, Simpson says he wants people to know that he was serving God and every person he met.

Simpson also adds that he wants people to know he was “fair and loved every one of them no matter who they were, or where they came from.”

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