Coach Rosanna Chiaramonte and Michael Cook received the Special Olympics Inspirational Coach and Inspirational Athlete awards, respectively, at the county Special Olympics competition. They were both nominated by Judy Moore, director of Tennis For Fun.
“Michael displays great sportsmanship and is an inspiration to all the athletes,” said Moore. “They both certainly deserved it for all they have given. Rosanna is a very giving person.”
Tennis For Fun is a free weekly tennis clinic for special needs athletes that helps train them for Special Olympics events during the season if they desire to compete. It is run entirely by volunteers, and the Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center is one of five locations associated with the program that donates court time.
According to Moore, Cook trains hard and has advanced from individual skills to full-court match play. He competed at the state Special Olympics in tennis. Cook enjoys playing tennis with friends and competing in the county, area and state, and he has been a Tennis For Fun athlete for 16 years.
“Being recognized for good behavior and good sportsmanship means a lot,” he said.
Cook went undefeated and came in first place in the county, which made him eligible for the area competition, where he could qualify for states, but all Special Olympics events were cancelled due to the coronavirus. He hopes to rejoin the program when the new season starts in November.
Chiaramonte has been the co-director with Moore for Tennis For Fun in Brandon for 20 years. She also volunteers at ECHO in her spare time. Chiaramonte and Moore met while playing tennis together for the Nativity Church women’s tennis league. They have been friends and partners ever since then.
“It was very unexpected. I was shocked that I won the award because there are so many people who are very deserving of it,” said Chiaramonte.
The nonprofit was started in the fall of 2000 by Moore’s son, Nathan Moore, who was doing volunteer work for Jesuit High School as a part of the school’s tennis team. When Nathan went to college, Judy took over the program, and she oversees all five locations in Hillsborough County associated with Tennis For Fun.
According to Moore, 15 athletes started with the program when it began, and nine of them are still with it today. BSAC has the largest Tennis For Fun group in the county with about 100 athletes.
Volunteers are needed every Friday afternoon for clinics when the season starts back up in November. Students will receive community service hours for their time. For more information, check out the website at tennisforfun.org.
“Every athlete in our program, even if you are in a bad mood, they just make your day,” said Chiaramonte. “They put a big smile on your face.”