Daniel Stern has always had a passion for tennis, and he used that passion to create a tennis camp for children with mental disabilities.

Daniel began playing the game at age 6, following in the footsteps of his older sisters. He played competitively until eighth grade, when a knee injury forced him to take a break. After recovering, Daniel began playing again recreationally, and eventually played singles for the Weber School’s tennis team.

Daniel Stern, right, a junior at The Weber School, created a tennis camp for children with mental disabilities. (Special)

Along with tennis, Daniel also has a strong passion for helping others. He began volunteering at Friendship Circle, a nonprofit organization that provides companionship to people with special needs, after hearing a representative speak at his school during his freshman year.

Daniel started out being paired with someone with special needs at an event, such as a karate class. “I really became interested in this program,” he said, and he enjoyed seeing the difference he was making in someone else’s life.

Daniel quickly made the decision to become more involved in Friendship Circle, signing up for its “Buddies” program. He was paired with a man named Mike and visits him once a week. After playing tennis with Mike one day, Daniel became inspired to share his love for tennis with other people involved in Friendship Circle through a summer camp.

It was a long process to turn the camp from an idea to a reality. “The most difficult part was starting off,” he said.

First, Daniel went to the Sandy Springs Tennis Center to start the process of acquiring a court. “I asked them if they would be willing to donate courts for a special needs tennis camp, but I really didn’t know what I was doing yet,” he said.

Luckily, the tennis center was very willing to help.

“They gave us shady courts with a picnic area,” Daniel said.

Next, Daniel approached Friendship Circle, told them his plan for a four-day tennis camp, and rounded up 15 campers through them. He then found 17 volunteers, mostly from the Weber School, to help him with the camp. Each camper was paired with a volunteer.

The students also donated $1,200 raised on a crowd-source fundraising website for camp food and supplies. Daniel also held a racket drive at school, and later dedicated hours to updating every racket donated.

Daniel plans to continue the tennis camp with Friendship Circle next summer, and wants to expand the program to reach other kids.

Sarah Kallis, a student at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, reported and wrote this article.