Erskine student-athletes who are away from their families can feel that distance keenly as they face the challenges of adjusting to college life and balancing their academic and athletic pursuits.
For some 18 years, under the direction of Coach Calhoun Parr, the Women’s Tennis Team has been bridging the gap that results as students are separated from their families with the “Adopt-a-Grandparent” program, connecting residents of the Renaissance retirement community in Due West with members of the team.
Each player is matched at the start of the year with an adopted grandparent through the efforts of the team’s grandparent project leader, Katie Loudermilk, along with Coach Parr and Ann Grubb, the retirement community representative.
The grandparents are all volunteers who are elated to be able to mentor or share time with players. One grandparent, Luke Cicora, is 100 years old, and another, Lamont Deloach, is not far behind at 95. Two of the grandparents, Don and Joanna Kennedy, have participated for the entire history of the program, while four are first-year participants. The grandparents attend many of the women’s tennis matches and some play tennis or golf themselves.
Susan Jackson, Marketing Director for the Renaissance, loves watching the interaction between the players and their adopted grandparents. The emotional support goes both ways, she observes, and benefits both groups. Each student has a mentor, an older, more experienced person, providing wise advice. The women of the team in turn offer affection and the fun of youthful interaction.
“Life is dependent upon relationships,” Parr says. “Without a person to help us make wise decisions it is sometimes easier to follow the advice of less experienced peers and friends. Having wisdom-filled and Christ-loving ‘grandparents’ to give advice or share an embrace helps during challenging times when the choices are not always clear.”