Tennis racket in hand, Megan Layton headed out to the courts at St. Dominic High School in O’Fallon with other players.
Layton ran in and hit the ball over the net right in the center of the court, getting praise for her form and hustle.
The girls’ tennis team at St. Dominic invited Layton and six other residents from St. Louis Life to practice with them on Sept. 4. St. Louis Life is a residential program for adults with developmental disabilities. Residents work and live in the community.
The guests didn’t need help on many of the basics since they’d played before, some in Special Olympics competition.
Layton said she has a love of sports and hanging out with friends. “Tennis is one of my favorite sports, and I do Special Olympics,” she said. “I liked working on my tennis skills, and I liked playing with the girls a lot.”
St. Louis Life resident Chris Davis said he played tennis off and on for years, an appropriate sport for him as a descendant of tennis legend Dwight Davis, founder of the Davis Cup and the namesake of a tennis center in Forest Park.
Another resident, Alex Bauschard, said he rediscovered how to play tennis and enjoyed mingling with new people. “I didn’t think I’d be good at this tennis practice at first,” he said, “but it might have sparked something that was maybe a hidden talent of sorts. I got to be a little bit better because of everybody’s patience.”
Mary Kate Burcham, a junior at St. Dominic who transferred this school year from Farmington High School, said she enjoyed playing with the guests. “They enjoy it, and that makes it fun for us,” said Burcham. “Obviously, we love the sport so it’s fun to teach it to other people who may not get to play as often as we do. We never did stuff like this at my old school.”
St. Dominic’s coach, Mark Borst, started the practice with stretching, then broke the players and guests into small groups for drills over the school’s four courts. He heaped praise on the guests: “Good swing,” Good shot,” “You’re having fun now.”
Likewise, St. Dominic players were encouraging. “You’re good at this, you’re a pro now,” St. Dominic junior Emily Lieurance said.
Sarah Herr, a St. Dominic junior, said: “I like helping them learn the game of tennis and to enjoy what we enjoy, even if they face more difficulties than we do. Their positive attitudes and the smiles on their faces make my day.”
Donna Herr, Sarah’s mom and a volunteer with the tennis team, knew of St. Louis Life because her son volunteered there with his grade school and helped coach some of the residents in Special Olympics basketball. Herr knows Layton from her parish, Immaculate Conception in Dardenne Prairie, where Layton is an extraordinary minister of the Holy Eucharist.
“I know how great the residents are from any time we’ve done activities with them,” Herr said. “I knew the girls would love spending time with them.”
Borst, the coach, said “the girls were so excited, they’d been looking forward to this. They want to give back to the community. We emphasize fun in a lifelong sport, great sportsmanship and team bonding. Yes, we want to be very competitive and do very well, but what it really comes down to is we want to be a family.”
St. Louis Life residents plan to return to St. Dominic next month to cheer the team in action against Notre Dame High School. Afterward, the players and their new friends will go out for ice cream.
>> St. Louis Life
The residential program for adults with
developmental disabilities in O’Fallon has 16 residents who live
independently in one-bedroom apartments with staff on hand 24 hours a
day. The program offers residents job placement and job coaching
assistance, social, educational and recreational activities and other
St. Louis Life was founded by Robert J. Trulaske, Jr., a
parent with a young adult son with Down syndrome. The program began in
2007 with a mission to enable people with developmental disabilities to
achieve independent living and live full and enriched lives.
For information, visit www.stlouislife.org.
>> St. Dominic tennis
A highlight this season so far for
the girls tennis team was winning the Troy Buchanan doubles tournament.
The team also won its first road trip, defeating Rosati-Kain.
Dominic is the defending conference champion, winning all its conference
games last season. The team won its district with back-to-back 5-0