The Society for Kids at Tennis, better known as KATS, was founded by one man, a doctor, looking for something to fill his days in retirement.  KATS offers free tennis lessons to children who might not otherwise have access to the sport.

“It got started about five years ago,” says Silverberg.  “Being retired, and having had a wonderful life, I was looking for someway to give back.”

He and his wife looked at various organizations, but nothing inspired him, until his wife suggested “well, you love tennis so much, isn’t there something that you can do with that?”

That was in 2013.

“Initially I thought I’d have 30, maybe 50 kids every summer for a summer camp… well, five years later, we’ve surpassed 11,000 kids!”

“There’s seven community centres that we work with, as well as rec centres, community organizations, social organizations like Boys and Girls Club, low income neighbourhood schools, the Intercultural Association and the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Society, as well as First Nations.

“And we’re now working with kids with autism, and down syndrome, and last year all our coaches took a Tennis Canada training course for wheelchair tennis” says Silverberg proudly.

Sandy Robertson, facility manager at Oaklands Community Centre, says KATS “is a really fantastic program, providing tennis for kids who may or may not be able to otherwise get into organized sport.”

On the day we visited, Silverberg gratefully accepted a donation from Coast Capital Savings, as 80 per cent of KATS budget is allocated to instructor fees.  All instructors are Tennis Canada certified.

“Our focus is on youth” says Heather Herr from Coast Capital, “and we’re very proud to be here today with Sy, supporting programs such as KATS.”

Along with 17 professional instructors, KATS offers 54 volunteer coaches, “and… administration is me…” Silverberg admits with a big smile.

“The health of our kids, both physical and emotional, is going downhill!” says Silverberg.  “The incidence of type two diabetes, obesity, depression… all of those things are growing at dramatic rates, and that’s mainly because kids are no longer playing outside.”

But that’s changing, thanks to one man’s retirement dream.

“My retirement pastime has become a full time job again, but it’s so rewarding!  I love it!”

Veronica Cooper